Severed cable blamed for Syrian Internet cut

Internet access in Syria has returned, according to those monitoring Web traffic in the region, as well as Syrian media reports.

Internet monitoring firm Renesys said that Web traffic resumed in Syria after a 19.5-hour outage.

Google's Transparency Report, meanwhile, which keeps tabs on access to its products across the globe, saw service flatline, but start to pick up again yesterday.

A note on the website for SANA, a state-run Syrian news service, said that Internet service was "back to normal across Syria," and blamed a fibre-optic cable malfunction.

"Director General of the General Establishment for Communications Bakr Bakr said that internet services and communication between provinces went down on Tuesday evening due to a malfunction in an optic cable, and that repair is underway to restore services as soon as possible," according to SANA.

Syrian ISP Sawa acknowledged the outage on its website, noting that the downtime lasted about 20 hours.

Internet activity in Syria dropped off just before 19:00 on Tuesday, prompting concern that the government had cut Web access amidst political unrest. This was not the first time Internet access had been cut off in Syria, though. It went down in November 2012, as well as June 2011 amidst protests, and again the following month.

It's not yet clear who is responsible for the severed cable, or if that is indeed the true cause of the outage. It's not unheard of - in March, Egyptian Coast Guard officials caught three divers who were in the midst of cutting undersea Internet cables that belonged to Telecom Egypt. But there have been enough incidents of intentional, government-led Internet shutdowns to prompt skepticism.

As Renesys pointed out, "the outage exposes fundamental undetected weaknesses — lack of submarine or terrestrial cable diversity, lack of Internet provider diversity, poor investment in alternative forms of transport, political control over Internet chokepoints. If the Internet damage is painful enough, engineers (or revolutionaries) are forced to take creative steps to address those weaknesses. Repeat... forever."