Tags: red sea | internet cables | houthi | yemen

Red Sea Conflict Imperils Vital Internet Cables

By    |   Saturday, 02 March 2024 10:47 AM EST

Geopolitical tensions and maritime hazards are reigniting concerns over the vulnerability of the internet's critical infrastructure as conflict brews in the Middle East, focusing attention on the strategic waterway of the Red Sea, reported The Wall Street Journal.

Serving as a crucial conduit for a substantial portion of internet traffic between Europe and East Asia, the region finds itself increasingly at risk.

The narrow strait at the southern end of the Red Sea serves as a pivotal point for undersea cables, through which the majority of internet data traverses between continents. However, this strategic location is fraught with dangers, primarily stemming from the heavy maritime traffic that heightens the risk of accidental damage to these vital communication links.

Recent attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have exacerbated the situation in the area, the Journal reported. On Feb. 24, three submarine internet cables experienced disruptions, affecting web services in India, Pakistan, and parts of East Africa. While the exact cause of the outages remains uncertain, speculation points to the recent attack on the drifting cargo ship Rubymar, suspected to be the work of Houthi forces.

Despite denials of responsibility from Yemen's Houthi-backed telecom ministry, concerns loom over the potential ramifications of such attacks on critical infrastructure. Seacom, a Mauritius-based cable owner affected by the disruptions, acknowledged the logistical challenges of repairing the damaged lines. Claudia Ferro, Seacom's head of marketing, cited potential delays due to permitting issues, regional instability, and adverse weather conditions.

"Our team thinks it is plausible that it could have been affected by anchor damage, but this has not been confirmed yet," Ferro said.

The intricate geopolitical landscape, exacerbated by Yemen's decade-long civil war, further complicates efforts to safeguard internet connectivity in the region. With Houthi rebels controlling significant portions of the western Red Sea shoreline and the internationally recognized government holding the east, companies face regulatory hurdles and security risks when deploying and repairing submarine cables, according to the Journal.

The escalating costs associated with operating in conflict-ridden areas threaten to impede the expansion of internet infrastructure by tech giants like Google and Facebook. Projects such as the Blue Raman system and Facebook's 2Africa cable, designed to enhance internet connectivity, are at risk due to the mounting challenges in the Red Sea region.

While submarine cables offer a cost-effective means of international data transmission, they are susceptible to various risks, including accidental damage from maritime activities such as fishing and anchor dragging. To mitigate these risks, industry experts emphasize the importance of diversifying internet routes and exploring alternative pathways that bypass conflict-prone regions like the Red Sea.

Efforts to navigate these challenges are underway, with some internet companies exploring routes across Saudi Arabia to circumvent the turbulent waters near Yemen. However, regulatory barriers and logistical complexities present formidable obstacles to such endeavors, underscoring the delicate balance between security, connectivity, and economic interests in the realm of global telecommunications.

Jim Thomas

Jim Thomas is a writer based in Indiana. He holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, a law degree from U.I.C. Law School, and has practiced law for more than 20 years.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


GlobalTalk
Geopolitical tensions and maritime hazards are reigniting concerns over the vulnerability of the internet's critical infrastructure as conflict brews in the Middle East, focusing attention on the strategic waterway of the Red Sea, reported The Wall Street Journal.
red sea, internet cables, houthi, yemen
482
2024-47-02
Saturday, 02 March 2024 10:47 AM
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