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Cut Undersea Cable Plunges Yemen Into Days-Long Internet Outage

Last week, the internet went dark for Yemen and its 28 million citizens. It’s still not fully back today. In fact, the entire Red Sea region has dealt with slow to nonexistent connectivity since the severing of a single submarine cable on Thursday. Wired reports: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Ethiopia all felt major effects from last week’s cut of the so-called Falcon cable, which even impacted countries as far away as Comoros and Tanzania. Most of them weren’t totally knocked offline, though, because they were able to fall back on other lines of connectivity. In Yemen, though, that one cable cut led to an 80 percent drop in capacity. Though the country still had that last 20 percent, trying to route a water main of web traffic through a drinking straw resulted in near-total connectivity failure.

While internet blackouts have been used in regions like Iran and Kashmir as a political cudgel, there’s no indication that the cut in Yemen’s case was nefarious; it’s more likely that an anchor unintentionally severed it. Fixing it, though, won’t be so simple. Yemen has three submarine cable landings — a Falcon connection in the east, another Falcon connection in the west, and a third landing in the port city of Aden, which connects to two other cables altogether. Due to an ongoing civil war, Aden is the temporary capital of Yemen, controlled by the Hadi government; Houthi-controlled territory geographically divides the country. By Saturday, one of Yemen’s two main internet service providers — YemenNet — was able to restore some connectivity by working with Oman’s major ISP, Omantel, to receive service from a different undersea cable. The Falcon cable has not yet been fixed, though, and countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, along with Yemen, are still dealing with lingering impacts of the cut. If providers don’t have a backup means of communication, or have to reestablish service with a manual rerouting process, restoring connectivity can take days.


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