After Volcanic Eruption, Tonga Faces Weeks Without Internet


A few minutes after the volcanic blast on Saturday night, there was a plunge in internet traffic to Tonga. A little over an hour later, the connection went completely dark, said Doug Madory, the director of internet analysis at Kentik, a network monitoring company. “I think that’s the moment when something reached the cable,” Mr. Madory said.

The following day, the cable went into what is known as single-end feed mode, in which it was being powered from Fiji but not from Tonga, said Craige Sloots, a spokesman for Southern Cross Cable Network, which is part of the collective working to repair the connection.

Analysts have identified a break both in the international section of Tonga’s cable, which occurred about 23 miles off the coast of its capital, Nuku’alofa, and in the islands’ internal network. The cause is believed to be a land slippage or shift in the sea floor, Mr. Sloots said in an email.

Under any circumstances, fixing this internet plumbing is intricate work. Add in the complications of an active volcano and the tentacle-like effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and it is even more challenging, said Amanda Watson, a researcher at the Australian National University’s Department of Pacific Affairs.

“One of the key issues is that there are very few vessels that are equipped to lay and repair undersea cables,” she said.

Repairs may ultimately cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, with daily costs for the ship tasked with fixing the cable, the CS Reliance, at between $35,000 and $50,000. SubCom, the company responsible for the repair, has estimated that it will take at least four weeks to restore the connection, according to New Zealand’s Foreign Ministry.

Source : Nytimes