Friday, December 19, 2008

Damaged cable cuts Internet for millions

A map showing undersea internet & communications cables

A severed undersea cable has severely disrupted Internet access for millions across Europe the Middle East and Asia. It is thought the FLAG FEA, SMW4, and SMW3 lines, near the Alexandria cable station in Egypt, have all been cut. The cables were cut at around 06:30 GMT on Friday. A fault was also reported on the GO submarine cable 130km off Sicily. The cause of the outage remains unclear [BBC]. It is not the first time that such an incident has occurred. Earlier this year the failure of a cable in the Mediterranean resulted in major communications problems [tvnewswatch]. In December 2006 a 7,1 earthquake also disrupted Internet access for millions when a cable near Taiwan was damaged [tvnewswatch]. Repairs took weeks and trading on some financial markets all but halted. Cables between the US and China were also damaged in 2001 resulting in a lengthy repair [BBC].

After today's fault was reported France Telecom immediately alerted one of two maintenance boats based in the Mediterranean area, the “Raymond Croze”. This France Telecom Marine cable ship based at Seyne-sur-Mer has received its mobilization order and will cast off at 02:00 GMT [03:00 CET] Saturday with 20 kilometers spare cable on board. It should be on location on Monday morning for a relief mission. Priority will be given to the recovery of the SMW4 cable, then on the SMW3. By December 25th, SMW4 could be operating and by December 31st France Telecom say the situation should be back to normal.

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