Conspiracy theories emerge after internet cables cut
Is information warfare to blame for the damage to underwater internet cables that has interrupted internet service to millions of people in India and Egypt, or is it just a series of accidents?
When two cables in the Mediterranean were severed last week, it was put down to a mishap with a stray anchor.
Now a third cable has been cut, this time near Dubai. That, along with new evidence that ships' anchors are not to blame, has sparked theories about more sinister forces that could be at work.
For all the power of modern computing and satellites, most of the world's communications still rely on submarine cables to cross oceans.
When two cables were cut off the Egyptian port city of Alexandria last week, about a 100 million internet users were affected, mainly in India and Egypt.
The cables remain broken and internet services are still compromised.
Telecommunications analyst Paul Budde says the situation demonstrates how interconnected the world is.
"It clearly shows we are talking about a global network and a global world that we are living in," he said.
"So wherever something happens we all get, in one way or another, affected by it."
It was assumed a ship's anchor severed the cables, but now that is in doubt and the conspiracy theories are coming out.
Egypt's Transport Ministry says video surveillance shows no ships were in the area at the time of the incident.
Online columnist Ian Brockwell says the cables may have been cut deliberately in an attempt by the US and Israel to deprive Iran of internet access.
Others back up that theory, saying the Pentagon has a secret strategy called 'information warfare'.
But Mr Budde says it is far more likely to be a coincidence.
"It is absolutely strange, of course, that that happens. At the moment it really looks like bad luck rather than anything else," he said.
Telecommunications professor at the University of Melbourne, Peter Gerrand, says Australia is in a far better position than India to withstand a cable breakage.
"We've got, in effect, five really major separate cables, each with high capacity, most of which have plans for upgrading their capacity in the next few years," he said.
Professor Gerrand does not believe Australia is vulnerable to the types of major disruptions that India and Egypt have seen.
"I gather India has most of its capacity on two cables - one's to its west and one to its east - so when the western cable got cut near Egypt, all this traffic had to then pass through a single cable and that's what's caused these very huge delays," he said.
Australia's protection zones
As it happens, Australia's protection against such incidents was boosted just last week.
Activities that could damage submarine communications cables have been prohibited off Perth's City Beach since Friday.
Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) submarine cable protection manager Robyn Meikle says the events in the Middle East highlight the importance of submarine cables to all international communications.
"Here in Australia, over 99 per cent of all of our international communications carried through these cables lie at the bottom of the sea," she said.
"That's why the Australian Communications Authority [ACMA] has played a major role in declaring protection zones over our cables of national significance in Australia.
"Each of the zones, for instance, has restrictions to do with anchoring, which are aimed at preventing the sort of damage that has happened in recent times in the Middle East.
"ACMA declares protection zones over what are considered to be the main cables of national significance, and they're the ones that carry the bulk of the traffic," she said.
"So really, they are the most important cables that the industry relies on to carry all communications in and out of Australia."
Conspiracy theories emerge after internet cables cut - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)