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Jersey sore: Anchor rips into island's undersea cables, sinks net access

Captain likely to walk the plank

Internet speeds on the UK island of Jersey have been slashed – literally – after a ship's anchor destroyed three submarine cables linking the isle to the British mainland.

Broadband speeds on the Channel island immediately slowed to a trickle after the data cables, owned by telco JT, and the voice traffic cable, owned by ISP Sure, were severed. Network operators rerouted data to a separate cable connecting Jersey to the main French data networks to pick up the slack, but speeds are still below their usual level.

"We are working as quickly as we can to get our undersea cables repaired, and normal service resumed, and will keep customers up-to-date with what is an extremely challenging emergency engineering operation at sea," said Daragh McDermott, director of corporate affairs at JT.

"It is exceptionally unlucky and unprecedented for three submarine cables to the UK to be cut in the same day, and it proves the value of having multiple links in the network, in order to provide a backup connection via France."

The coastguard is investigating, and the ship involved was reportedly the King Arthur, an Italian-registered liquefied petroleum gas tanker. It is believed to have anchored in a restricted area over the submarine cables and then dragged its anchor over them.

Luckily the cables are in relatively shallow waters, which should make finding the broken ends relatively easy. Divers or an unmanned submersible can be used in this case. For deep ocean breaks, cable repairers have to fish around on the seabed trying to find broken cables, which can be a long and expensive process.

Once found, the fiber optic cables will be spliced together, or a new section can be glued into place on the data pipe, before the whole thing is lowered back into the water.

Work has already started to fix the cables, JT said, and the first is expected to be repaired in a week. A second cable repair ship is en route from France and should have the second cable fixed shortly, and the third should be back up and running by the end of the month. ®

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