What's Up with All the Slashed Internet Cables?

As the pace of repair work picked up on three Internet cables in the Middle East this week, word that more damage has occurred to nearby undersea fiber-optic lines in the last 24 hours arrives. The slew of slashed cables has caused a frenzy of speculation on their causes in the blogosphere. As of today, Egyptian officials still had no explanation as to the cause of the damage to the first two lines, slashed a week ago, but they said there was no evidence that ship's anchors caused the breakage.

The two new damaged lines being reported are to some of the same systems as were cut recently, namely the FLAG Europe-Asia and SeaMeWe-4 networks. Landline and satellite connections have ameliorated some of the outages in the Middle East and South Asia regions, but it is estimated that some 85 million Internet users have been adversely affected. According to one report, nearly 90 per cent of Internet traffic is routed through undersea cables in these parts of the world.

Officials for the cable operators predicted that engineers working on repair ships at sea should be able to restore service in approximately one week for the earlier incidents. FLAG Telecom, operator of two of the damaged cables, told the Associated Press today that it is laying an entirely new "fully resilient" cable that will be able to withstand harsher treatment in underwater conditions.

"We are still treating this as a crisis," a FLAG spokesman told the AP. "But the new cable will provide a diversity in routes and be more resilient."

[See our earlier entry, "Internet Problems Mount for Asia/Europe Connection" for more details on last week's cable outages.]

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