Digital World: The underwater cable libel

Jews were also blamed for massive Internet outage in Arab world last week.

internet down 63 (photo credit: )
internet down 63
(photo credit: )
Who stands to benefit? That's the latest pseudo-scientific/sociological/political watchword when anti-Semites seek to blame Israel for modern tragedies. What about 9/11? Of course it was "the Jews" - who else stood to benefit from making al-Qaida look bad? The hijackers were Saudis, you say? Irrelevant - leave it to Israel to recruit authentic Arab double agents to hijack planes and fly them into American landmarks. It seems there's nothing that can't be blamed on the Jews - whether its missing Christian children during the Middle Ages - in the classic take on the "Blood Libel" - or the massive Internet outage that hit the Arab world over the past week. Well, not just the Arabs - India has had a lot of Internet problems, and Iran may still be 100 percent without Internet access after several underwater, fiber-optic cables were damaged or cut. The outages, which many in the Arab world and the far-Left, hate-Israel community are already blaming on you know who, began about a week ago. A pair of undersea communications cables between Egypt and Europe - the data "lifeline" for much of the Arab world - broke about 8 kilometers off Alexandria's harbor, which was closed most of the week due to the massive storm that hit the region. India, which also uses the FLAG Europe Asia and SEA-ME-WE 4 cables, was severely hampered, wreaking havoc with much of the world's back-office data-processing, and leaving frustrated Americans without the technical assistance that India does so well. Banks in the Gulf region were hurting, and officials said it could be a week, maybe two, until things get back to normal. Besides being used for fast Internet communications, the cables also carry digital phone calls and TV signals. So even the many people in the region who don't use the Internet were affected, as the legions of guest workers in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia couldn't make phone calls to family or transfer their salaries home to places like the Philippines and Pakistan (which had its own Internet problems). Several African countries that use the cables, as well as Egypt and Syria, were all out of Internet luck too. And then there was Iran. On Friday, a third cable - maybe a fourth, according to some accounts - got cut in the Persian Gulf, slowing the already bottle-necked traffic that could still get through, and cutting off Iran. Curiously, according to the anti-Israel crowd, there were only two countries left unscathed by the cable fiasco: Israel and Iraq. (I read contradictory reports on Lebanon.) Hmm. According to the companies that own the Mediterranean cables, the outage was apparently caused by the anchor of a ship that spliced a cable when it fell overboard. (I haven't heard any explanation yet for the Gulf cable.) Although it seems a little too coincidental, it's not unreasonable for weather related mishaps to occur in the middle of a major winter storm on the high seas. As far as the Gulf is concerned, I wouldn't be surprised if this ( was the explanation. Of course, logic never comes into play for these people; it's got to be Israel's fault. Well, I've got a theory of my own. Instead of saying that Israel and/or the CIA - which, as we all know, controls Iraq nowadays - deliberately cut the cables to isolate the Arab world, and especially Iran, and set it up for "something," I think it was the Arabs/Iran themselves that did the cutting to make Israel look bad by having something to blame on us. Or we could just call it a draw, and attribute the breakages to bad winter weather and infrastructure failure - not unheard of with underwater cables. Why wasn't Israel affected? Simply because we use a different cable, with Egypt and company refusing to allow Israel to rent bandwidth on the same one it uses. Israel's cable is called MedNautilus (, originally put together by a consortium that involved Israelis, but is now wholly owned by Spain's Telefonica. "Our" cable travels under the Mediterranean Sea from Tel Aviv to Sicily, and looks on the map to be several dozen kilometers north of the broken Egyptian cable. Considering how important these cables are for business and telecommunication, one would think there would be a backup system of some sort to avoid the outages and data-pipe shortages that have been affecting nearly a billion people over the past week. Unfortunately for the Egyptians, Kuwaitis, Iranians and Indians, there was apparently no sufficient backup data communications system to keep their businesses going. And the same holds true for us. Actually, we have it worse than others in our neighborhood. While some reports said Saudi Arabia was able to partially restore its service using "terrestrial routes" (overland cables, I guess), we don't have that option. For high-speed communications, MedNautilus is the only option. There are two other cables available, the EMOS and CIOS systems, which have been around since the early 1990s (MedNautilus was set up in 2001). But according to one Internet expert I spoke to, they "couldn't hold the bandwidth of even one big Israeli ISP today, much less all of them." Not to mention that the price of access on MedNautilus has been rising in recent years, making things much more expensive for ISPs and keeping prices relatively high for many customers. And what would happen to Israel's hi-tech economy if the line to the West was down for a couple of weeks? The solution to both the redundancy problem and the high prices on MedNautilus would seem to be the construction of another high-speed underwater communications cable. Last month a number of Israeli ISPs got together to discuss doing just that ( Unfortunately, given that the investment in such a project could reach tens of millions of dollars, it's unlikely to get off the ground, many experts believe, even if all the communications companies work together to lower risks. If the mess in the Arab Internet world last week should teach us anything, it should teach us three things: 1) The importance of redundant systems for an an advanced hi-tech economy; 2) The importance of a strong navy to keep troublemakers bent on economic terrorism from cutting the cable; and 3) The importance for ship captains to make sure they don't drop anchor in the wrong place.