by Mike Masnick
Mon, Feb 4th 2008 4:38am
If you've never read Neal Stephenson's epic article from Wired magazine in 1996 about the laying of undersea fiber optic cable, I highly recommend you set aside some time to do so. Just a warning: set aside a lot of time. The article is almost book length, and it's hard to stop reading once you get into it. He goes into quite a lot of detail about FLAG, the Fiberoptic Link Around the Globe. You'll learn quite a bit about undersea cables and FLAG, which could come in handy, because in the last week, it appears that a bunch of these undersea cables have all started experiencing problems. It started off with reports of two cut cables (one of which is FLAG's) in the Mediterranean, with the explanation being that a boat anchor dragged across them. Yet, late Friday, reports came in of a third cut cable (also a FLAG cable) in the Persian gulf, followed by Egyptian reports denying that the cuts were caused by ships, saying none were in the area. To top that off, on Sunday, reports came in of a fourth cable with problems in the Middle East (it's unclear if this problem is as serious as a full cut cable), causing people to start thinking up conspiracy theories. It certainly is mighty strange to have four separate undersea cables with such problems in the same region within a few days of each other. You hate to ascribe it to malice without further evidence, but unless these cables all just went off of warranty, it's going to have a lot of folks asking similar questions.
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