Why the internet still works despite two undersea cable breaks

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We’ve been watching the journey of the Leon Thevenin since it left Cape Town on Wednesday to repair a break on the South Atlantic 3/West Africa Submarine Cable (SAT3/WASC) and West African Cable System (WACS) near Angola.

It was a good while before we realised that we were able to access the internet at all given a major connectivity pipe wasn’t functioning.

For many folks this won’t seem strange at all but if you dial the clock back 15 years or so, a cable break would have meant no international connectivity at all and terrible local connectivity at best.

The reason we’re able to get online at all, with not one but two breaks, is our internet is more resilient than it was all those years ago.

“Although Internet speeds decreased, the SAT3 break proved the local web is a robust and stable system that is today less reliant on international communication gateways since the creation of SA’s Internet Exchanges (INXes),” explains co-chairperson of the Internet Service Providers’ Association, Guy Halse.

A look at this map from TeleGeography reveals six exchanges in Gauteng, two in Durban and three in Cape Town.

The local peering and exchange of traffic was designed to improve the delivery of internet traffic locally. This means that, even in the event of a cable break, locals are able to access international websites, albeit with a small decrease in speeds.

There are of course still issues and speeds are slow for many users. The good news is firms such as Openserve are addressing this by leasing connectivity from other undersea cables.

This intricate network that keeps us online didn’t just appear overnight. It took many years of hard work and funding from the likes of the African Union to bring us to the point we’re at today. ISPA members also contribute to growing local INXes.

Here’s hoping there’s continued investment in our INXes to the point where we don’t even notice when a cable goes down. We can dream right?

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.