Home / Blogs

The Internet’s Weakest Link

This week two major transoceanic cables experienced outages that may last several days. 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.

By Rob Frieden, Pioneers Chair and Professor of Telecommunications and Law

Filed Under


Fergie  –  Feb 3, 2008 5:30 PM

There were actually three (3) transoceanic cables cut last week—see also:

“Third Cable Cut Compounds Net Woes”

...and the Renesys folks have a lot of detailed information over on their blog:



- ferg

Baher Esmat  –  Feb 3, 2008 9:49 PM

A report by the Egyptian Ministry of Transportation said that cable cut was not caused by ship’s anchor: http://ukpress.google.com/....

Ewan Sutherland  –  Feb 4, 2008 7:15 AM

Undersea cables break from time to time. Basic knowledge of plate tectonics tells you, for example, that Africa is moving north towards Europe. There was a massive outage in late December 2006, just south of Taiwan, cutting several cables.

The difference from corporate networks is that ISPs tend not to pay for the redundancy necessary to cover predictable outages.

There are alternate routes to India, across Russia, around Africa or across the Pacific, but buying capacity for an eventuality like a cable break is expensive. It is easier and much cheaper for ISPs to make a lot of noise for a few days, until the cable is repaired. Rather than provide 99.99999 per cent reliability, they just cut capacity to customers who have bought a best efforts service and must wait for the repair ship.


Comment Title:

  Notify me of follow-up comments

We encourage you to post comments and engage in discussions that advance this post through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can report it using the link at the end of each comment. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of CircleID. For more information on our comment policy, see Codes of Conduct.

CircleID Newsletter The Weekly Wrap

More and more professionals are choosing to publish critical posts on CircleID from all corners of the Internet industry. If you find it hard to keep up daily, consider subscribing to our weekly digest. We will provide you a convenient summary report once a week sent directly to your inbox. It's a quick and easy read.

I make a point of reading CircleID. There is no getting around the utility of knowing what thoughtful people are thinking and saying about our industry.

Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet



Brand Protection

Sponsored byCSC

IPv4 Markets

Sponsored byIPv4.Global

New TLDs

Sponsored byRadix


Sponsored byDNIB.com

Domain Names

Sponsored byVerisign

Threat Intelligence

Sponsored byWhoisXML API


Sponsored byVerisign