Sat, Feb 10, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Internet access cut after cable severed

WORLD WIDE WAIT For users in Taiwan, the Internet slowed to a crawl yesterday as a vital link to the US was damaged by what may have been a sea trawler

By Dan Nystedt  /  STAFF REPORTER

Damage to an undersea cable linking Taiwan to the Internet left five million Internet users in Taiwan without access to the Net yesterday, able only to access Web sites in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

In what may be Taiwan's largest Internet service disruption ever, a cable damaged near China's Chongmingdao (崇明島) island, off the coast near Shanghai (上海), cut direct Internet service between China and the US at around 8am yesterday. Net users were unable to access US-based e-mail, usenet and Web servers for most of the day.

At 9pm last night, Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信) officials claimed to have 92 percent of Taiwan-US Internet traffic restored through a back-up Taiwan-Japan undersea cable.

"We got the system back online by temporarily rerouting [it thorough a series of connections] between Taiwan and Japan," said Chunghwa manager Chen Cheng-lu (陳呈祿).

As for the main China-US link, another Chunghwa official said repairs may take some time.

"We're still trying to determine exactly what happened to the cable" and the connection may take up to two weeks to repair, said Teng Chin-shan (鄧錦山), director of Chunghwa Telecom's international division.

Officials in China said the repair efforts could take up to three weeks.

Chunghwa authorities speculate that a fishing boat trawling near the island may have severed the undersea cable, but are waiting for the final word from Chinese officials on Chongmingdao.

Put into service in January last year, the damaged China-US cable is part of a pan-Asian network built by 10 companies and 15 telecommunications firms. The cable connects Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Malaysia with the US. So far, the severed cable's impact on other member countries of the consortium is unknown.

The severed undersea cable is made of a bundle of fiber-optic strands sheathed in plastic and steel-armored to prevent accidental damage.

Taiwan's backup connection -- an older fiber-optic cable submerged between Taiwan and Japan, should be able to restore 100 percent Internet access to users here soon, according to Teng.

Although a simple flick of a switch on the Japan side is enough to open up the Internet gateway, Japanese authorities must be consulted and the "proper paper work must be filed," Teng explained.

Chunghwa is already feeling the economic impact from the Internet stoppage. Though final figures have yet to be tallied, Chunghwa may end up paying NT$200 million (US$6 million) in compensation to cable licensees.

Other businesses most likely to be hit by the Net outage are banking and securities firms and a large number of contract manufacturers in Taiwan who will be unable to receive design and specification changes usually sent via the Internet from overseas.

Because the damaged cable also affects China's 20 million Web surfers, Taiwan and its cross-strait nemesis have found themselves in the unfamiliar position of having to work together to solve a common problem.

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