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Fiber-optic Cable Failure Blamed for Syrian Internet Outage

May 13, 2013

Fiber-optic Cable Failure Blamed for Syrian Internet Outage

By David Delony
Contributing Writer

An Internet outage affecting the war-torn country of Syria has been blamed on the failure of a fiber-optic cable.

The outage effectively cut off the country from the rest of the Internet for almost a day. It is not known whether it was due to a technical failure or whether the Syrian government, which is locked in a civil war, deliberately cut off one of the three fiber cables connecting the country to the rest of the world.

Cutting off Internet access has been a common tactic in the Middle East, most notably the Egyptian government under former President Hosni Mubarak.

“It was normal news for us … It did not affect us,” Ahmad al-Khatib, an activist in the Jabal al-Zawiya region in Syria told the Associate Press via Skype (News - Alert). “Those who were affected are activists who use 3G and they are mostly activist in regime-controlled areas.”

Many activists rely on 3G despite the intermittent problems with connectivity and the potential for government surveillance, because using satellite phones marks them as sympathizers with the rebel cause. The government has already cut off 3G access in areas of the country already under rebel control, which forces them to use satellite phones.

Activists have relied on Skype, YouTube (News - Alert) and other online services to spread their message to the rest of the world.

The successes of protests against regimes in the Middle East, including Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, have been credited to widespread use of the Internet in coordinating activists and spreading messages to their home countries and the rest of the world.

The Internet in the country is back up for now. An earlier outage in November lasted for two days and coincided with a strike in Damascus and its airport. No military action appeared to be responsible for the latest outage.

Edited by Alisen Downey
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