Submarine Cable Repairs Underway

A look at how submarine telecom cables are repaired, and some unsensational reasons for these cable failures.

There were more stories today about the submarine cable cuts in the Middle East and their impact on Internet service in the region. Many stories picked up on the "whodunnit" question and conspiracy theories, generally providing more heat than light. The exception was a story from the BBC, which examined the repair effort, with an information graphic about submarine telecom cables.

Members of the NANOG list provided some additional perspective. Columbia's Steven Bellovin posted a summary of events along with a look at non-sensational explanations for cable failures, including ship anchors, storms, earthquakes, and even shark bites.

On the NANOG list, some posters objected to the widespread use of the term "cable cut," since it's not known how the cables were damaged and the reasons are often mundane. "Most cable failures occur when deep ocean currents rub the cable against rocks and erode the cladding until water hits the copper that carries power through the cable to the undersea repeaters," wrote Rod Beck of Hibernia Atlantic. "At that point the individual fibers have little protection and it is not long before those fibers are cut or sufficiently bent by pounding against a rocky surface to degrade the signal to the point where it is useless."