The island nation of Tonga lost its primary connection to the Internet when an undersea fiber cable was damaged Sunday, forcing Tonga to rely on a satellite dish while the country waits for a repair ship to arrive, news reports say.
The outage could last a week or more.
Reuters reported as follows:
The outage, which the cable’s owner said may have been caused by a ship’s anchor, also knocked out overseas phone calls and is hampering money transfers, airline bookings, university enrolments as well as Facebook connections to family and friends.
In the capital, Nuku’alofa, a satellite dish was hastily mounted on Monday to provide limited and slow backup connectivity, prompting hundreds of people to queue outside a government telecom office where the signal is most reliable.
“You just wait for your turn to have your 20 minutes to access… it’s currently hot here in Tonga at the moment but they’ve put up a tent outside, with chairs, so people can wait,” Tonga police spokeswoman Sia Adams said, according to Fox News.
Social media may be blocked to save bandwidth
The cable is owned by Tonga Cable Ltd., which was formed by the government of Tonga in 2009 “to build and manage a submarine fibre optic cable to connect Tonga to an international network service.”
Tonga is an archipelago consisting of 171 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, though most are uninhabited and two-thirds of Tonga’s 106,000 residents live on the island of Tongatapu. The cable is 514 miles long and links Tonga to Fiji.
“As is the case for many Pacific islands, there isn’t enough population or funding for more than one cable to run from the main island, according to Christian Patouraux, chief executive of Singapore-based Internet company Kacific,” Fox News reported.
Because capacity is dramatically limited, Tonga Cable said it may block social media websites. About 80 percent of Tonga’s international Internet traffic consists of social media, Tonga Cable Ltd. Director Paula Piveni Piukala told Radio New Zealand.
“We may block Facebook, YouTube and social media, in the meantime, so that we can maximize the small bandwidth that we have from the satellite on what is important for the country,” Piukala said.
An exact date of restoration is not available. The cable was severed in two spots, about 6.2 miles from Tonga, Piukala told Reuters for an article published Wednesday.
“We haven’t really ascertained the cause, but most likely it was a boat with an anchor has dragged the cable, or something of this sort,” Piukala said.
“‘The main connectivity to the outside world was through the cable,’ he said, adding a repair ship was preparing to leave from Samoa and could fix the problem in a week or two, weather permitting,” Reuters wrote.