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Kenya Did a Shark Really Bring the Internet Down?

Date: 2/12/2008 5:01:36 PM

Kui Kinyanjui

Was it a ships anchor? A lurking spy ship? A shark with peculiar tastes?

Just who was behind the recent cutting of several fibre optic cables in the Mediterranean a few weeks ago? The mysterious episode cut off nearly 73 million people from their Internet, telephony and other services and now forms the basis of the hottest conspiracy theory.

Official explanations for the cuts initially placed the blame on a ships anchor but theorists have touted every possible angle to the breaks including more farfetched ones like the shark did it.

At first, two cables were affected by the work of culprits unknown. One is owned by FLAG Telecom, a subsidiary of Indias Reliance Group. The other, SEAMEWE 4, is run by a consortium of 16 telecommunications companies.

Both carry almost 90 per cent of the data traffic that goes through the Suez Canal and when severed, dislocated much of the East from the rest of the world. When two other cables were snipped in the same fashion barely days after the incident, conspirationists came out in droves, claiming more sinister reasons lay behind the sudden disruptions in services.

Some claimed that a US submarine had been sighted in the waters near the affected areas one that had been specially designed to cut fibre optic cables running to Iran.

Others thought strong competition between cable operators may have motivated the serial cutting spree. But several lessons for Kenya lie in the incident.

As the country prepares to invest in its own fibre optic links, the obvious factor that will resound in many stakeholders minds will be how can we stop this happening to us?

Comprehensive dialogue and redundancy plans need to be developed now to ensure that even the hungriest shark does not destroy the years of planning that have gone into our cable projects.

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