Cut cables? Conspiracy conjectures! (again)

Welcome to a special IT Blogwatch EXTRA: as Richi Jennings watches bloggers watch another cluster of undersea-cable severment. Not to mention how Ukrainians sell ringtones...

Previously in IT Blogwatch: Cut cables? Conspiracy conjectures!

Robert McMillan reports:

SEA-ME-WE-4-Route (source: J.P.Lon)
Internet and telephone traffic between Europe, the Middle East and Asia was hampered today after three major underwater data lines were cut ... in the Mediterranean Sea that connect Sicily to Tunisia and Egypt ... which connect countries between Singapore and France as well as the Flag Telecom cable route, which stretches from the U.K. to Japan.


A maintenance boat is en route to the site of the cut, but it will not get there until Monday, and it will take as many as two weeks for the situation to return to normal ... Many countries were affected by the outage, including India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Malaysia.

Aunty Beeb adds:

It is thought the FLAG FEA, SMW4, and SMW3 lines, near the Alexandria cable station in Egypt, have all been cut. A fault was also reported on the GO submarine cable 130km off Sicily.


The cause of the break is as yet unknown, although some seismic activity was reported near Malta shortly before the cut was detected.


Experts warned that ... the knock on effect could have serious repercussions on regional economies.

Kim Zetter walks like an Egyptian:

The cuts are causing traffic to be re-routed through the United States and elsewhere ... the outage has almost completely killed internet services throughout Egypt.


The SMW 4 and FLAG cables were among five undersea cables damaged earlier this year in January and February in the Mediterranean, launching a flurry of conspiracy theories before investigations revealed that at least one of the cuts was caused by a ship's anchor.

Jonathan M. Gitlin worries for international sanity:

Many of us are now highly dependent on the Internet in our daily lives. I know it's essential for my job, and if reports in the medical literature are to be believed, more than a few of us might even be psychologically addicted to that steady stream of digital information.


The Internet's ... global nature and the infrastructure that pipes it from continent to continent actually makes the whole thing fairly fragile; a well placed fishing net or anchor and whole countries or even regions can be left back in the 1950s, when e-mail sounded like a guy's name.

Stacey Higginbotham says the Maltese are cross: [You're fired -Ed.]

It’s unknown if the Malta cable problems are related to these cuts, perhaps from a weather or seismic event. However in the online world the cuts are certainly related in how they will make it that much slower or impossible for users to connect around the world.


Consider the web not only as physical infrastructure, but also held together by political and economic agreements. It’s like ... a like series of treaties that allow trade to various points of the globe. In Malta’s case, an agreement with Vodafone to share its cable kept the physical infrastructure from staying out. But as the Sprint/Cogent peering fight proved, when those agreements fail, the web is vulnerable in a way roads are not.

Behrooz examines the evidence:

Cables going to very close shore landing points between similar destinations tend to be pretty close together, saves significantly on the survey costs. The ... timing of the outages ... and the relative proximity of the cable courses suggests either anchor drag or someone who cares enough to make it look that way.

So fuzzyfuzzyfungus theorizes, conspiratorially:

I wonder what the going rate is to have a ship drop anchor in the location of your choice? There must be somebody, if you ask around quietly, who would be willing to set up a grubby little shipping company with no real assets worth suing for and have their rusty crap freighter drag an anchor across whatever bit of seabed needs some accidental scraping.

But Mike "Xaositecte" Avelli thinks not:

Even though it never got reported on, the [February] cable cuts were a serious nuisance to American troops stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq at the time too.

And finally...

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 23 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email:

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