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Internet Outages Devastating Effects On Nations

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Internet Outages Devastating Effects On Nations – Reliable internet connection was once viewed as a luxury, but loss of internet can now have severe and wide-reaching consequences, both for individual businesses and entire economies.

Businesses in regions that suffer from poor internet penetration and intermittent connection have likely acclimatized, leaning more heavily on offline ways of working. However, in regions utterly dependent on connection, companies are often ill equipped to handle downtime.

Research carried out by UK-based ISP Beaming found that British businesses lost almost 60 million hours of working time to internet outages in 2018.

On average, UK firms experienced two major outages and 16 hours of downtime each. Beaming estimates these outages cost the UK economy more than £700 million in lost productivity and extra overtime.

While they’re unable to influence goings-on in the world of undersea cabling, there are measures businesses can take to limit downtime, and the damage it causes.

According to Kevin Kong, Product Manager at another UK-based ISP, KCOM, “the primary solution to mitigate against downtime is tried and tested: resiliency and diversity.

“Services need to be designed for the worst case – this means having appropriate resiliency via a failover service (e.g. dual Ethernet circuits), which allows your organization to continue running critical, if not all, business systems.”


Given that infrastructure design appears unlikely to change any time soon, software could play an increasing role in keeping businesses online.

“The future could revolve around smarter network software that can work around hardware infrastructure failures. We are seeing interesting efforts in this area,” says Martin Levy, Distinguished Engineer at US web infrastructure and security company Cloudflare.

But Levy also notes that the introduction of new technologies brings with it an additional element of risk.

“With more complex technology comes more complex systems to manage it,“ he says. “This requires sophisticated training and experienced individuals. There are places in the world where additional deployed technology doesn’t equal improved quality.”

On the cusp of blackout

It might seem staggering that whole nations can so easily be taken offline, even if only temporarily. But not all countries enjoy the luxury of extensive redundancies in the event a cable is damaged.

Japan is served by a total of 26 submarine cables, the UK is supported by 54 cables, and the US by a whopping 91, but a significant proportion of the world relies on just a single cable for connection, or two if they’re lucky.

TechRadar Pro looked at the number of countries reliant on either one or two cables. In total, 19 countries – about 10% of countries globally – are supported by only a single submarine cable. The largest of these (by population) include Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Togo and Sierra Leone.

If you include countries supported by just two cables (a further 11 nations), the total number of people relying on a tenuous connection rises to almost 450 million, or 5.57% of the global population.

It’s true that some of these nations likely supplement the connection delivered by submarine cables with satellite links, which can provide a measure of support.

According to Nicole Starosielski, author of The Undersea Network and Associate Professor at NYU, satellites are an acceptable backup, but don’t compare to the speed and bandwidth offered by fiber optic cables.

“Satellites are a viable option as a supplement to the current network – reaching areas cables cannot reach and providing redundancy in some locations. But they are not a replacement for the cable network,” she explained over email.

In other words, low-bandwidth satellites would be quickly overwhelmed if an entire nation attempted to connect at once, making them effectively useless in the absence of the cable system.

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