Three scuba divers have been arrested for attempting to cut an underwater Internet cable according to Egyptian military spokesperson Ahmed Mohammed Ali. The suspects were trying to sabotage the line from a fishing boat roughly 820 yards from Alexandria and appear to have been at least somewhat successful as Internet speeds in the region are now reportedly slower than usual.
The men were tampering with the SEA-ME-WE 4 set of lines belonging to Telecom Egypt, one of the main lines feeding the Mediterranean. News of the attack coincides with reports from cable operator Seacom that several lines between Africa, parts of Asia, Europe and the Middle East were affected. Cables in this region are responsible for more than 75 percent of traffic between the Middle East, Europe and the United States.
Most submarine cables are only about three inches thick and contain just a few optic fibers yet they are still able to transfer data between 40Gbps to 10Tbps – a figure that will only increase with time. Submarine cables in general date back to the 1860s with the first transpacific cables having been laid in the early 1900s.
The extent of the damage is not clear at this hour nor do we have a motive to go on. What’s more, it remains to be seen if this attack is related to recent issues with other underwater Internet cables. The men are in custody so with any luck, we’ll get some answers sooner rather than later.