Taiwan Earthquake Disrupts Internet and Telecoms Connectivity in Parts of Asia

Filed as News on December 28, 2006 2:55 am

Mother nature sure has its ways of showing us who is boss. Even with all the technological advances we have come up with in the course of human history, it only takes one calamity–or force majeure as some would put it–to bring us back to the dark ages. Well, that’s putting it very bluntly. We’re not actually experiencing another ice age yet, nor has TEOTWAWKI arrived, but in some parts of Asia, we feel like the Information Age has been put on hold.

Since Wednesday morning (+0800 GMT), some parts of Asia have been disconnected from the rest of the world due to a Magnitude 6.7 earthquake that hit Taiwan. This caused breakage in undersea cables that serve as links/relays to the rest of the world. Not only were the Internet pipes badly affected, but telecommunication lines were also severed, cutting international telephone links.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reports.

A “fiber break” in the major submarine cables linking the Philippines to the international network caused a nationwide disruption in Internet and telephone services, local telecommunications company said Wednesday.

“These are major submarine cables linking the Philippines to the United States. We said earlier that it was only the Internet but apparently it has affected international voice calls,” John Rojo, head of corporate communications of Bayantel, in a telephone interview.

AP reports that repairs could take more than a couple of weeks due to the magnitude of the damage.

Up to a dozen fiber-optic cables cross the ocean floor south of Taiwan, carrying traffic between China, Japan, Korea, Southeast Asia, the U.S. and the island itself. Chunghwa Telecom Co., Taiwan’s largest phone company, said the quake damaged several of them, and repairs could take two to three weeks.

The CNN reports (via AP) that 80 percent of connectivity in affected areas has been restored. However, my connection is still very spotty–most of the sites I access are available, but many are loading very slowly. Still, I consider myself lucky since some friends, clients and online buddies have zero connectivity up to now.

asia-bandwidth-custom.jpg
Connection locally is okay, but the link to even some of our close neighbors in Asia is pretty bad.

What to do in times like these? Well, coming from someone whose means of living is heavily dependent on a decent Internet connection, I can say I can still manage and survive.

  • Have a backup plan. If you can connect to your broadband provider , but cannot access websites, chances are your ISP connects through the pipes that were affected. Other ISPs may already have backup links that work. Try connecting using dialup instead (check with the company first or with people you know who use that ISP if they’re already online). Or you can try connecting through a proxy server that has a decent uplink. I know of several ISPs here in the Philippines that balance the load through different bandwidth providers–and when I use their (password-protected) proxy servers, connection is usually fast!
  • Avoid International calls. I know it’s the holidays and it’s the time for greeting friends and family wherever they may be. But I’m sure your friends and relatives in other parts of the world would understand if you cannot get in touch with them for now.
  • Inform everyone that you’ll be unavailable for the next few days (or weeks). Maybe you can still post on your blog, or you know someone with a working connection you can send email with. At least people won’t wonder where the heck you’ve been.

Perhaps the best way to spend the time disconnected would be to relax and chill out. It’s the holidays, after all. And if you haven’t taken some time off (or offline) to spend with your family or even find quiet time by yourself, maybe this is a good opportunity to do so. Personally, I’m thankful I’m still in one piece, and no one close to me has been hurt by the disaster.

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  1. By Markku Seguerra posted on December 28, 2006 at 2:03 pm
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    Infrastructure damage must’ve been so bad since we’re still getting bad data connections at the office. Internet is at a crawl that most of those doing mainframe task cannot keep a stable link, affecting work significantly. Good thing most deadlines are not too strict during the holidays.

  2. By China Law Blog posted on December 28, 2006 at 8:18 pm
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    Our Shanghai office is without internet access, but Blackberry went live yesterday morning in Shanghai. What is going on elsewhere in China?

  3. By YoKo posted on December 29, 2006 at 4:52 pm
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    Well, i am from Europe and i might say that my connection to chinese sites are pretty shaky… Speed was usually maxed (via H/K proxies), now the speed is ’round few kilobytes per second since monday/tuesday. I might say this is goin to take awhile…

  4. By RAVI posted on December 30, 2006 at 1:26 am
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    I am from India, Tamil Nadu, the connection speeds have been terribly slow here… we are unable to download or upload work. We are just connected to the internet and could not find a good speed to catch with…

  5. By precious posted on December 30, 2006 at 10:13 am
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    i’m from the philippines, and my boyfriend’s DSL provider, PLDT (one of the major telecommunication providers), has been experiencing lag, especially in quite a few websites. he can’t even access yahoo messenger most of the time. as for me, i’m with Bayantel, another major provider. some sites won’t open for a 2 days now, friendster and even yahoo won’t even load css and pictures. crazy! anyway, i’m glad i stumbled upon your site, it’s great!

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  8. By YoKo posted on January 3, 2007 at 2:20 pm
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    Thank you mr. Hung for your comment, i appreciate any help linked to this disaster. I am using my connection to China every day for a living, and now it’s unbelievable slow. Currently i am using some Korean proxies to do my job (and it’s very very slow – 5-10kb/s, used to be 50-70) on chinese servers. I hope after the repair they’ll add some more bandwidth to chinese servers, so i can connect even without proxies.
    Also, any news about the situation now? I am still unable to connect with some satisfying speed…

  9. By Paul posted on January 6, 2007 at 7:45 pm
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    It is estimated that up to one million jobs could be lost as an affect of this loss in internet.
    The talk at the weekend of most foreign business men in Makati was not how are they going to survive with little or no internet it was what country they are moving their business to.
    All seemed to be of the same voice what the hell is being done? Seems like nothing. When will it be back to normal? After 9 days PLDT won’t tell them.
    Why is the Government not involved? Do they think internet is just for games?
    Does anyone care that they are not providing internet?

    Talking to a Group that included Americans, Germans and British. They all agreed if this happened any where else the government of the country would call a State of Emergency.

    It was also very interesting to hear that PLDT was offered help from one of the worlds leading internet providers, to get the Philippines back to normal with in 36 hours. At no cost to PLDT.
    PLDT refused the help WHY? Could they be scared that the Philippines people would see how well a foreign company could run the internet? Could it be it would have been faster and more stable?
    Would it mean Filipino’s might demand a change in law to let foreign competition in and stop this monopoly
    What ever it is the fact remains the problem could have been fixed by Friday and 1 million Jobs could have been saved.

  10. By Paolo Ramirez posted on January 9, 2007 at 4:30 am
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    my job as a fulltime freelance graphic artist depended on my DSL connection to fetch would be clients and referrers but with the recent incidents concerning the internet is has been a hard… especially because most of my clients are from the US.
    as if it isn’t any worser, PLDT customer service sucks… there are times that I get the feeling that they are not answering the phone… I hoped they would have at least advised their customers what had happened instead of keeping there mouth shut…
    I just wish the the situation to be addressed as soon as possible…

  11. By Mark Marucot posted on January 9, 2007 at 6:43 am
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    I’m a power gamer of Neverwinter Nights 1, note NWN1. I usually join tournaments and party quests. I got a DSL last summer and everything is smooth. But after the earthquake the response time of my character in-game is 10 seconds after pressing any button or spells. Wow. I’m level 38 and killing a level 20 mobs tooks 3 times longer before the Taiwan earthquake.

  12. By YoKo posted on January 9, 2007 at 1:44 pm
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    Seems like nothing has changed since the quake. As far as i can see, still no good connection to China or any other “eastern” countries (eg HKG, Macao, Korea, Japan or similar). Looks like it’ll take a little longer than 16th of January, or even January…

  13. By SELaplana posted on January 10, 2007 at 4:57 am
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    this afternoon (Philippine time) BayanDSL and Globelines Broadband went slow. is it still part of the damage caused by the earthquake? I’s really pissed off by this. I lost some scheduled blogging jobs.

  14. By JAN DIPUTADO posted on January 20, 2007 at 3:30 pm
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    im a Globelines Broadband user and im still experiencing slow internet connection until now. am i the only 1 experiencing this problem? or is this still an after effect of the earthquake last year?

  15. By Dan (ESL instructor in CHINA) posted on January 21, 2007 at 10:04 am
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    January 21st… Well beyond the 3 week predicition of “back to normal” my internet connection to my friends and family and just as importantly my MMORG is sooooooooooo bad. I want to go home for the first time in 2 years just so I can be connected again. My sanity depends on keeping touch with people outside of China… /cry

  16. By RAffy posted on January 22, 2007 at 4:27 am
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    JAn. 22- I am a Globelines broadband user and now i am still experiencing a very slow internet connection. Is this still because of the Taiwan earhtquake? This is really bad.

  17. By YoKo posted on January 22, 2007 at 4:18 pm
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    as i’ve been heard, another quake hits the Taiwan few days ago, so the repairing work has been cancelled once more. My connection is still very slow regarding to connecting to China…

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