Friday, February 1, 2008

The Internet’s Weakest Link—Submarine Cableheads

This week two major transoceanic cables experienced outages that may last several days. See The outages provide a reminder that several Internet bottlenecks exist where these cables make landfall.

When one thinks of bottlenecks in telecommunications the first and last mile come to mind. Yet equally vulnerable are the last few 1000 feet of submarine cable links. While most cables have “armor” to guard against breaks, a misplaced anchor still can cut the cord as apparently occurred in Egyptian waters.

On a global basis redundancy and alternate routes do exist, as well as the typically more expensive satellite option. But contrary to the conventional wisdom the Internet did not appear to route around the breaks with sufficient speed to prevent service outages. Two nearly simultaneous cable breaks provide a reminder of the Internet’s vulnerability.