Article By: Robert Stacy
Last week, the South Pacific island of Tonga was struck by an ongoing internet outage to the entire nation, caused by the severance of an undersea cable. Although it is unknown how the resilient undersea cable, which connects Tonga to the rest of the world, was severed, it seems likely that the attenuation was the result of a large anchor dropping on the cable.
The consequences of this outage are far reaching – residents of the island are largely unable to make international phone calls, perform wire transfers, and access online banking, among various other financial and communicatory functions. Repairs to the vital undersea cable are not expected to take place until later this week, but, in the meantime, relatively low-bandwidth satellites have been erected to provide internet access to critical operations on the island. According to EziNET, the IT company responsible for maintaining this satellite, the bandwidth of this stopgap satellite has been tapped out to its maximum potential.
Examining this fiasco from an economic perspective begs the question: why is there a single point of failure for something so critical to the economic safety of an entire nation? Why wasn’t a level of redundancy implemented to prevent this from happening? In the Information Age, few nations can afford an internet outage of such large scale due to the potential of multi-million dollar losses. At this point, Tonga could be without internet access for weeks.
For Tonga (and other nations with similar network infrastructure), the solution should be obvious; lay a redundant undersea cable that routes into the primary ISP of the island in case of another catastrophic failure. If the main undersea cable experiences an attenuation, within minutes the secondary cable would kick in to route data almost seamlessly into the island again.
The challenge with an implementation such as this is simply that it costs money; the installation of one of these cables can cost tens of millions of dollars. However, this pales in comparison to the potential economic splash waves caused by a weeks-long internet outage, and the repairs associated with it. As such, the installation of a secondary cable should be seen as a long-term investment rather than simply a cost burden to the residents of the island and the government.
Will Tonga ever enact a solution like this? Only time will tell, but you can be sure CarolusX will keep you updated on the situation.