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UK/Europe fiber cable cut

  • Posted by Michael Carroll
  • August 29, 2012 2:08 PM BST

Apparently the UK suffered a web blackout over the weekend, but it's news to me.

The break happened to an Interoute cable running to Amsterdam, some 120km off the UK shore and 100km from the Netherlands. While I don't doubt the cable was severed - Interoute itself confirmed the cut -, I do wonder at reports of chaos caused as a result.

That's because I suffered absolutely no outages over the weekend, or on Monday while working.

According to The Register - the only publication to report the outage - the reason I could continue working uniterrupted is that most ISPs re-routed their traffic, with mobile operator O2 suffering the most due to parent company Telefonica's reliance on that cable. Websites including the BBC, Facebook and Amazon were also reportedly affected for about 24 hours.

Interoute apparently later told the news site the cable was likely severed by a ships anchor. That got me curious - how many ships anchor 100km offshore and is it even possible? I couldn't find an answer to the former, but a quick search of sea depth confirmed the latter is definitely possible. The route roughly follows the area where the English Channel meets the North Sea, which includes ground that once linked the UK to mainland Europe and so is relatively shallow (around 40m versus 120m or so at the Channel's deepest points).

Either way, the incident serves as a good example of how redundancy means disruption from cable breaks can go relatively unnoticed, even by those of us in the industry.