The internet, for the most part, seems like such an uncomplicated thing.
But behind the scenes, it’s a huge spaghetti-mesh of really long cables that endlessly ping data back and forth between continents. In this age of mobile data and Wi-Fi, few people give thought to the existence of internet cables. But, it’s said that ninety-nine percent of international connections happen via these wires, which are located on the ocean floor.
And, their depth can easily match the height of Mt. Everest. So, as you can now imagine, there’s a lot that can go wrong.
Like sharks nibbling on the cables (there’s actual video footage of a shark trying to take a chunk out of Google’s underwater cable). Or a ship’s anchor accidentally getting caught in a wire.
Whatever the case, cable damage can reduce an entire country’s internet to a snail’s pace. Which is exactly what South Africans have been experiencing for the last couple of days. The South Atlantic 3/West Africa (SAT-3/Wasc) underwater cables, which connect Portugal and Spain to South Africa, as well as the West Africa Cable System (Wacs), which connects South Africa with the United Kingdom, suffered spoilage.
The international cable downtime impacted most large internet service providers in South Africa, including Webafrica, Afrihost, Axxess, and Mind The Speed. These ISPs have, meanwhile, resorted to Plan B: buying additional international bandwidth on other undersea cables.
Like all companies whose infrastructure is based online, we were hoping for a quick end to the unwelcome outage. But by Monday, it became clear that South African internet users have more 404s, blank pages, and buffering videos in store. Which is kind of putting us back into the era of dial-up internet. You know, the days when loading a video actually took longer than watching the video itself.
There’s no reason to panic though. Two cables that break down at the same time isn’t the start of the internet apocalypse. But reports indicate that repair work could take two weeks. For now, we can pin the blame for the delay on Cape Town’s notorious gale-force winds, which battered the city at the weekend, delaying the dispatch of the Leon Thevenin, the repair ship meant to fix the problem.
Cable ship will be completing the loading of WACS + SAT-3 equipment this w/e, departing from Cape Town to Congo thereafter. The WACS break in the UK to be attended to late Jan. Probable that end-to-end WACS connectivity will be fixed only early Feb.
— REN Alerts (@RENAlerts) January 18, 2020
Looks like it’s time to play the Google T-Rex dinosaur a little more seriously, and see if we can set a new personal record.