A reminder on how dependent we already are on global communication networks and how quickly these can fall apart has again been provided yesterday afternoon.
Close to the Egyptian harbor of Alexandria, ships that could not enter the harbor due to weather conditions have stripped apart underwater fiber network cables for Internet and telephone communications with their anchors. The damaged cables are part of the SEA-ME-WE 4 fiber backbones reaching from Europe to Asia and into Africa. As a result from these damages Internet connectivity in Egypt has dropped to about 30% of the normal bandwidth and also Arabian countries as well as India have reported substantial impairments within data traffic to and from these countries.
Flag Telecom Group and the SEA-ME-WE 4 consortium – the organizations running the backbone – are currently evaluating options how to repair the damages. Emergency measures have been taken in the affected countries to switch / reroute the telephone and Internet traffic via other networks.
With global sourcing and off-shoring from backoffice up to business processes in many western organization to that region specifically to India, events like these provide a good indication how vulnerable our economies have actually become. Despite that most of the organizations providing such services have backup connectivity – mainly via satellite – these links with their immanently thin bandwidth can only provide limited replacement of the thick tubes already in need.
The dogma of a flat world where geographical location due to commoditized connectivity does not matter might have some side-effects after all beyond the loss of 100,000s of jobs in our countries.
We suggest to all that blindly believe in the infallibility of our technology to read E. M. Forster short story from 1909 The Machine Stops.
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