Friday, December 19, 2008

Mediterranean Internet Cables Accident-Prone?

Three Internet cables snapped in the week spanning the end of January and the first of February this year. Two were in the Mediterranean, near Egypt, the other was in the Persian Gulf.

This week, the trouble is about a thousand miles west of Alexandria, where January's first break happened. (8.3 kilometers from Alexandria, to be exact.)

There's been another cable break. Three, actually. Between Sicily and Tunisia. Europe, the Middle East and Asia are having trouble communicating with each other. There's still no word on what severed the cables.

A France Telecom spokesman said that whatever it was, it probably wasn't an attack.

When the January/February accident cluster happened, I wrote: "If a fourth, or fifth, or sixth cable gets cut in the next few days, I'll start re-evaluating my 'cluster of accidents' opinion."

This is way beyond "the next few days," so I don't have to re-evaluate.


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Quite a few people have been offline:
  • India lost 65% of traffic
  • Qatar and Djibouti, on the Gulf of Aden lost 70% of traffic
  • Maldives Indian Ocean islands lost 100% of their traffic
Other countries with severe outages:
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Egypt
  • Taiwan
  • Pakistan
Today's three-way break shows how sensitive - and flexible - the global communications network is. Quite a bit of traffic between Europe and Asia was re-routed through America, reducing the impact.

So, do I think this is some kinda plot? No. Although I'm a little impressed at France Telecom's statement: "The causes of the cut, which is located in the Mediterranean between Sicily and Tunisia, on sections linking Sicily to Egypt, remain unclear," followed closely by the assurance that it wasn't an attack.

I could imagine the scene in a movie: a massive communications blackout happens. The company spokesman comes on camera and says, "we don't know what happened, but we're sure it wasn't an attack." In a movie, that would a clue to the audience that it was an attack.

This is the real world, so it's possible that broken undersea cables in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf are accidents - the sort of thing that happens where there's a lot of traffic.

I'm getting increasingly interested in the growing number of coincidences, though.

Cut cables, earlier this year:
  • Wednesday, January 30, 2008 -
    Egypt undersea communications cables cut
  • Friday, February 1, 2008 -
    Persian Gulf undersea cable cut
    (International Herald Tribune (February 1, 2008), BBC (February 4, 2008))
Related post: In the news:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.