Internet Broken Across Two Continents

Dennis Faas's picture

Two broken undersea cables have wiped out Internet access for users across Northern Africa and South Asia. The cables, with the unassuming names SEA-ME-WE-4 and FLAG, appear to have broken off the northern coast of Egypt on Wednesday. It's thought the cables run between Egypt and Italy, and are part of a chain that carries most Internet traffic between Europe and the Middle East.

95% of Internet data sent across oceans is now carried by undersea cables. The effects have reached across the Arab Gulf states and into India. Egypt's telecommunication minister, speaking at a ceremony to announce a new Egypt-France cable, said his country's Internet access should be back to 50% capacity by the end of Thursday and 75% by the weekend. (Source:

Alternative cables and satellite coverage are making up the shortfall until the cables are fixed, which could take at least a week. The cause of the break is still unknown, though heavy storms that forced the closure of the Suez canal may have played a part. The storms are also delaying efforts to fix the cables. (Source:

As well as leaving home Internet users with slow or no access, the fault disrupted Egypt's financial markets and call centres.

By Thursday, 50% of India's bandwidth was still affected. It has caused problems for the country's $50 billion offshore outsourcing industry, where Indian firms provide IT and other support for overseas firms -- particularly on the east coast of the United States and in Britain.

Some countries have escaped the problems. Israel receives its Internet traffic via a different route, while Lebanon and Iraq are thought to have back-up satellite systems.

It's a reminder that, however high-tech the Internet may be, it's still a giant telephone network at heart and physical problems can wreak havoc for a virtual world.

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