Three main Internet cables from Italy to North Africa were inexplicably
severed in the second such incident in a year, plunging Egypt and
several other Arab countries into a communications crisis. Some suspect
that sabotage was involved, although it is too soon to tell.
Egypt and other Arab
countries from Libya to Saudi Arabia to the Persian Gulf are
experiencing massive communications disruptions, following the abrupt
and as yet unexplained cut of three key Internet cables which join
southern Italy with Northern Africa.
Eighty percent of all
Internet traffic in Egypt was cut, according to an official statement
from the Egyptian Telecommunications Authority. It was the second such
incident in just under a year.
International telephone calls
were also affected, but communications to North America appear to be
more disrupted than communications with Europe. Egyptian officials say
they are attempting to re-route some Internet traffic via cables
through the Suez Canal to the Red Sea.
The pan-Arab daily
newspaper, Asharqalawsat, headlined: "Digital Darkness descends on
Egypt and Elsewhere", reporting that the cuts were widespread and risk
major economic implications if they continue into the coming week.
year, Internet cable cuts caused major economic havoc from Egypt to the
Persian Gulf and on to India. Those cuts took days to repair, forcing
banks and other corporations to resort to old-fashioned technology to
Last year, the Egyptian Telecommunications
Industry restored partial Internet service to most businesses, but
asked that they refrain from doing major uploading and downloading to
avoid putting stress on the network. A crisis committee of top
telecommunications experts has also been set up this time around, to
help deal with the crisis which could cost the Egyptian economy
millions of dollars.
Initial reports say that three internet
cables belonging to two major cable operators, Semaway and Flag
Corporations, were severed off the southern Italian port city of
Palermo. Mohammed Omran a top businessman in communications and
technology in Egypt describes what happened.
"Three cables were
cut off at Palermo, in the south of Italy: Semaway 3 and Semaway 4, and
the Flag cable has actually been cut off at about the same place, all
around the same time," he said.
Omran was not ready to conclude
that sabotage was involved in the cable cuts, but he argued that it was
difficult to believe that such simultaneous cuts could be accidental.
a little soon to say whether it was done intentionally or whether it
was cut by the same boat or different boats, but between you and I, I
find it very hard to believe, as a human being and a professional in
communications, that the three main cables linking the continent to
others and multi-countries to one another to be cut off all at the same
time and it's less than a span of one year [since] the same thing was
repeated again," he said.
As investigations continue and repair
work goes on, Egyptian businessmen are trembling over the possible
ramifications of yet another Internet-less day Sunday.
install a new set of Internet cables between Alexandria, Egypt and
Marseilles, France also began 9 months ago and could be completed in
the first half of 2009, to provide an alternate route for the Internet
traffic between Europe and North Africa, and to prevent any further
Internet crisis from recurring.