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Millions in Middle East Lose Internet 304

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-web-for-you dept.
Shipwack writes "Tens of millions of internet users across the Middle East and Asia have been left without access to the web after a technical fault cut millions of connections. The outage, which is being blamed on a fault in a single undersea cable, has severely restricted internet access in countries including India, Egypt and Saudi Arabia and left huge numbers of people struggling to get online. Observers say that the digital blackout first struck yesterday morning, with Egypt's communications ministry suggesting it was caused by a cut in a major internet pipeline linking it to Europe."
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Millions in Middle East Lose Internet

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  • redundancy (Score:5, Funny)

    by theheadlessrabbit (1022587) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @03:56AM (#22243784) Homepage Journal
    isn't this why we are supposed to have system redundancy? so a failure in one area won't cause a complete blackout?

    isn't this why we are supposed to have system redundancy? so a failure in one area won't cause a complete blackout?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      in the same way that you have two sets of everything "just in case." we have a hard time convincing telcos that they should upgrade just to handle the traffic they have as it is never mind if anything went wrong. [think comcast or AT&T] to them anything that isn't directly doing something [ie not a backup] is costing them cash that would otherwise go into padding their pockets.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kneppercr (947840)
      Well, hindsight is 20/20 with these kinds of things and everything will be examined later. Of more immediate concern is how long it will take to restore the system. IANADSD (I am not a deep sea diver) but if it is an underwater cable problem I seriously doubt that this will be a "pull a bit more slack out of the wall and splice it with electrical tape" kind of solution.

      Also, who actually has the responsibility for the cable? No telling how long the accountant types on each end will bicker. I just hope that
      • by kamatsu (969795) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @04:41AM (#22244026)

        IANADSD (I am not a deep sea diver)
        WDYJUAULAAATIEIATDTPOTAESYKIWNBUA? - Why did you just use an unnecessarily long abbreviatory acronym and then immediately expand it and thus defeat the purpose of the abbreviation, especially since you know it will never be used again?
      • by somersault (912633) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:08AM (#22244154) Homepage Journal
        I think you underestimate the efficacy of electrical tape in general. Especially when secured with duct tape.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          No kidding. Duct tape has made incredible advances over the years. I mean, who knew that people would need nuclear duct tape [hillas.com]? But it exists. Deep sea cable patching duct tape also probably exists.
          • by vtcodger (957785)
            Probably not. Duct Tape is wonderful stuff. It would probably be the universal repair technology were it not for two flaws:

            1. It's lousy for patching ducts.

            2. It doesn't work well under water.

            Deep Sea cable patching duct tape? Probably not. But bailing wire might work. And they can always try quick setting epoxy or a bent paperclip.

        • by ajlitt (19055)
          And nylon ties. The rich man's bailing wire.
      • There were actually two cables cut - FLAG and SMW-4, and according to one article they were cut in different places.

        Also, if you look at how internet transmission works, while you obviously want geographical redundancy, that doesn't mean that you don't send traffic on all available routes. Carriers are going to make sure they've got enough redundancy for their critical load levels (e.g. the voice network and private-line customers), but if they're doing redundancy at Layer 3 they're going to send traffic a

    • by p0tat03 (985078)
      There's no redundancy because people do not demand it. Why is it that military communications don't ever fail like this? Simple, because the customer understands the importance of fault-free operation and is willing to pay for it. Compare with the average internet subscriber...
      • Re:redundancy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Yvanhoe (564877) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @04:45AM (#22244046) Journal
        Would you pay 2 time the price to prevent a one-day outage once every year ? Military does. Consumers don't. Yet.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by QuickFox (311231)

          Would you pay 2 time the price [...] Consumers don't.
          Some do. At home I have 8MB cable, and also, for the infrequent times when the cable is down, I have an antique 56K telephone-modem subscription. The latter costs very little when unused, and instead costs by the minute when used.

          Of course the phone-modem connection isn't useful for any serious download, but I'm never helplessly disconnected from e-mail, news, slashdot etc.
          • by Nullav (1053766)
            Why not just use one of those free dial-up services? A lot of them only give you a few hours a month (or ads, in the case of NetZero/Juno), but it's only for emergencies, right?
        • by Tony Hoyle (11698)
          I deliberately pay more for a decent ISP and it is something like two times the price of the cheapest.

          So the answer to your question is yes.
      • Re:redundancy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mpe (36238) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @08:00AM (#22244856)
        There's no redundancy because people do not demand it. Why is it that military communications don't ever fail like this? Simple, because the customer understands the importance of fault-free operation and is willing to pay for it.

        Sometimes this is the case. But you also get the likes of soldiers borrowing phones from journalists because they work better than military radios.
    • Re:redundancy (Score:5, Informative)

      by KDR_11k (778916) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @04:30AM (#22243974)
      There was redundancy there. I was talking with a guy from Bahrain when it happened (already suspected a cable problem since I've experienced that with a cross-Atlantic cable already) and he said his ping just went up like mad, he was still able to connect obviously, just with a ping of two seconds.
      • Re:redundancy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by teh kurisu (701097) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:04AM (#22244376) Homepage

        That's what I thought. This probably isn't a case of "Middle East Loses Internet", more a case of "Millions in Middle East Now Using One Fibre Connection Instead Of Two".

        Like when a major motorway gets closed due to an accident, and every road within a hundred mile radius is choked for the rest of the day.

    • NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

      Fark can keep their echo threads!
  • by broothal (186066) <christian@fabel.dk> on Thursday January 31, 2008 @03:58AM (#22243794) Homepage Journal
    ..if you read this as "Millions in Middle Earth Lose Internet"
  • by xx01dk (191137) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @04:01AM (#22243808)
    Russian subs used to employ a cutting device on some of their submarines designed to cut the cables used in undersea sonar nets... I'm thinking it wouldn't take too much to start a war these days given how much we rely on these underwater communication cables. That said, it's more likely that a ship's anchor snagged it.
  • by Prysorra (1040518) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @04:08AM (#22243850)
    If this can happen to the Middle East, it can happen to Russia.

    This is final proof that Russia can be cut off from "the internet".

    Now about that Storm bot net....
    • by drspliff (652992)
      Well, other than Russia is mostly connected to the rest of the world by land.

      You know, their in a pretty good strategic position for Europe-China links if somebody can work out how to lay thousands of KM of fiber relatively quickly over land, at the moment most of the Chinese sites I visit still get routed through America, largely because the cost of laying undersea cables is relatively low for the distances it covers...

      However, if you wanted to cut the UK off from the rest of the world, that could be done
      • by CmdrGravy (645153)
        I'm not sure how easy it would be to cut the UK off, there seems to be an awful lot of cables connecting the UK to an awful lot of places. The last time I think saw a map of the worlds international undersea cabling I remember thinking that a disproportinate volume of it seemed to make a bee line for the UK. How many of those contain internet links though I'm not sure.
      • by Jellybob (597204)
        Unless you did all the cables at once, we'd barely notice.

        Now if you were to take out Telehouse, that would probably cause a few heads to turn, since most of the UK's Internet traffic goes through there at some point or another.
    • Actually, you can cut the Internet from yourself.
      I mean, this is not another Soviet Russia joke.
      Unless the whole world agrees to cut Russia from the Internet, you'll probably get hosts from other countries willing to route Russian packets and you'll end up getting them anyway.
  • hmmm..... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tloh (451585) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @04:12AM (#22243874)
    how odd. It is so strange to see a story like this not tagged as "whatcouldpossiblygowrong".
  • Maybe they're opposed to network neutrality [wikipedia.org]?
  • Once a anchor is dropped,
    who cares it pull's up?
    It's not my department,
    it's just my part time job!
  • THAT'S where all my spam went.
  • How dumb do the Russians feel right now? Their subs are off planting little flags on the north pole, and ours get to do cool stuff like cut off the internet to half of the Middle East.

    Take that, Putin!

  • its a 'web' (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Meltir (891449) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @04:22AM (#22243924) Homepage
    so shouldnt they be cutt off from the global network, but still have a working 'web' of their own ?
    They must have their own servers, anything going into that cable is just a 'foreign' request.

    Those are important - sure, but i would gather they dont make up more then 40% of all requests.

    But only some of the routes should be down, and they still should have a very large lan, with dns, www, email and anything else they have on the spot, and im willing to bet that the ISP's there have stuff like that.
    IIRC the web wasnt just designed to be foolproof, it was also designed to be autonomus once disconected from other networks.
    Or am i missing something here, and all that they have is cables, no other infrastructure ?
    • by p0tat03 (985078)

      You're right, theoretically, but it all depends on how you structure your network. If small pockets of nodes are connected using a wide-reaching backbone, and that backbone goes down, there may not be enough "content" on each of these small subnets for it to be of any use to anyone.

      Add into the fray the fact that web designers don't give a hoot about localizing hosting. A Middle Eastern web server may decide to hook into a European database server, an Asian image server, etc etc. Unless the entirety of th

    • by dido (9125)

      I imagine, like much of the Third World, including where I am right now, the Internet infrastructure is fragmented and few ISP's have direct peering arrangements, so a packet from one Egyptian ISP customer going to a system hosted at another Egyptian ISP might well need to pass that severed cable going to Europe, or worse yet, many sites intended for Middle Eastern consumption might rather be hosted in European or American data centers instead of locally, where clean power and reliable connectivity arrangem

  • SEA-ME-WE 3? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Matt_R (23461)
    Sounds like the SEA-ME-WE 3 [wikipedia.org] cable
  • Really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rie Beam (632299) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @04:34AM (#22243992) Journal
    I guess now would be the time to say it, then.

    Deep breath, Rie.

    *inhale*

    I think the Danish cartoon controversy was really overblown.
    • by jez9999 (618189)
      You forget that AL Jazeera is still on air. :-) They're reporting the comment as we speak.
  • by mbone (558574) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @04:53AM (#22244088)
    A lot more information is available from the Renesys Blog [renesys.com].

    It was both the Flag Telecom and SEA-ME-WEA 4 cables outside of Alexandria, Egypt. The SEA-ME-WEA 3 cable is apparently OK.

    In long distance telecommunications, you really need another path going "the other way around" to be safe. For example, many of the large companies with back-offices in India pay for routes both over the Atlantic to the Middle East to India (which might have been broken by this) and also West Coast to Pacific to Singapore to India (which would not have been).

    At AmericaFree.TV, the steady Egyptian audience went to zero yesterday, presumably because of the break, while the audience in Iran, Iraq, the GCC, Pakistan and India did not seem to be affected.
  • ...as if a million people cried out, and were suddenly silenced.

    SCNR.

    On the bright side, that will mean a lot less spam for the time being...
  • by empaler (130732) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @04:56AM (#22244104) Journal
    A communications' disruption can mean only one thi... Oh never mind, that movie sucked.
  • by cheeni (267248) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:34AM (#22244256)
    Seriously given the magnitude of this, /. could have come up with a more factual and informative writeup.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/31/business/worldbusiness/31cable.html?ref=business [nytimes.com]

    Two undersea telecommunication cables were cut on Tuesday evening, knocking out Internet access to much of Egypt, disrupting the world's back office in India and slowing down service for some Verizon customers.

    One cable was damaged near Alexandria, Egypt, and the other in the waters off Marseille, France, telecommunications operators said. The two cables, which are separately managed and operated, were damaged within hours of each other. Damage to undersea cables, while rare, can result from movement of geologic faults or possibly from the dragging anchor of a ship. /snip/

    One of the affected cables stretches from France through the Mediterranean and Red Seas, then around India to Singapore. Known as Sea Me We 4, the cable is owned by 16 telecommunications companies along its route.

    The second cable, known as the Flag (for Fiber-optic Link Around the Globe) System, runs from Britain to Japan.

    http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20080039928&ch=1/31/2008%208:29:00%20AM [ndtv.com]

    Internet service providers in India have put the disruption at 60 per cent of normal services while those in Egypt have been affected up to 70 per cent.
  • Oblig. Stephenson (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    see his brilliant article in Wired [wired.com] on undersea communication cables.
  • The dodgy internet connection I have in South Africa (yes we are basically at the butt end of internet connectivity...) today every few times my connection drops (I have always on ADSL)... ...and the lack of viagra spam in my spambox this morning...
  • How's the spam? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What I'd really like to know, is if there is a correlated drop-off in spam; and if so, by what percentage ...?

  • by Hemi Rodner (570284) * on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:56AM (#22244344) Journal
    Since we have lotsa redundant connections here.
    Lucky us!
  • by AsciiNaut (630729) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @05:59AM (#22244358)
    Every night I back up the internet to my RAID array to protect myself from this and similar eventualities.
  • Reminds me of something that happened around last year. [slashdot.org]

    It's basically the exactly same thing happening. "Fun".
  • by jamesh (87723) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:31AM (#22244512)
    Obviously there's a hole in the tube so all the data has leaked out and the water has leaked in. The data, being lighter than water, will have floated to the top and evaporated away. Once the tube has filled with water, the incoming data is unable to push the water out of the way.

    First they need to blow some air down the tube and inspect the tube for bubbles, then put a patch over it. Once that is done, they'll need to drain all of the water out of the tube, possibly just by blowing air down it some more. Finally, they will be able to allow data to flow again. The first few gigabytes are probably going to come through a bit damp, but after that it should be fine.

  • In graph form (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TwistedSpring (594284) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @06:44AM (#22244556) Homepage
    And here it is in graph form [internettr...report.com]
  • That would explain the lack of telemarketers, they have no VoIP connections to enable them to bug me.
  • by tomandlu (977230) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @07:39AM (#22244770)

    ... by the fact that news.bbc.co.uk [bbc.co.uk] is asking for comments from anyone affected. Paraplegics, take one step forward...

  • divers will find a backhoe sitting on the sea floor near where the cable was cut.
  • by Petersko (564140) on Thursday January 31, 2008 @11:57AM (#22247276)
    According to CNN, part of Africa was hit as well [cnn.com]. I'm worried. I just sent $1000 to a fellow over there to cover the costs needed to release $100,000 I won in a contest. He was supposed to get back to me via email.

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