We may disappear!

February 7, 2008

If One is an accident, and Two is unfortunate, then Three would be a co-incidence which would make Four a conspiracy.

Late in January an undersea cable off the coast of Egypt, which forms part of the backbone of internet infrastructure, was severed. These cables carry the bulk, around 90%, of internet traffic. They are expensive to lay, are well protected against damage, but still occasionally things happen to them. Anchors from boats are often the culprits, despite them being well marked on charts.

On its own the loss of this one cable would be no big deal. There is excess capacity in the network so traffic can be re-routed. About 100 cables each year are severed with 25 repair ships working full-time to fix problems as they occur.

But then a second cable in the same area was severed. Two cables out of action means more disruption, particularly for people in the Middle East and India. The BBC have a nice schematic showing the area involved.


Depending who you believe the damage was probably caused by ships dropping anchors during inclement weather or can’t have been caused by ships because there were none in the area.

See, with only two cables damaged the confusion is already beginning to grow.

And then cables three and four (and possibly five depending on which news reports you read) were damaged and taken out of action. These latest incidents relate to cables in the Persian Gulf.

So, at last count the following countries are impacted; Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan and India. Iran may or may not be entirely offline, again depending who you believe.

So far we’ve escaped with just a variable connection. If we disappear entirely you know why!

If you want to read more, below are a series of links. Some are straight forward factual pieces, some are conspiracy pieces, some are mocking the conspiracy theorists.

The Register: Cable cutter nutters chase underwater conspriacies

The Times: Conspiracy theorists ponder ongoing web outage

International Herald Tribune: Ruptures call safety of Internet cables into question

Khaleej Times: Cable damage hits 1.7m Internet users in UAE

The Business Shrink: World Economies hang by an Internet thread



  1. While everyone back in India were cribbing about being cut off from the rest of the world because of the storm at Egypt, I was ecstatic as this was the storm which brought the snow on troodos which was otherwise snowless throughout this winter!

  2. Wasn’t the snow fantastic? We got caught in a mini snowstorm up near Lefkara. It wasn’t until we saw photos on your blog that we realised it had snowed down at the coast too :-)

  3. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation :) Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Judgmental.

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