A ship may have cut fiber-optic cables connecting the Channel Islands to the U.K.

Kevin Parrish
Digital Trends
channel islands fiber optic cables severed united kingdom container ship
channel islands fiber optic cables severed united kingdom container ship

Earth’s human inhabitants have grown accustomed to a globally connected world. If their power goes out, their smartphone dies while out and about, or their broadband connection goes down, they are disconnected from the rest of the world and life immediately sucks. This worldwide network of connectivity is made possible by a spider web of undersea fiber-optic cables connecting the contents and islands together. But imagine what happens when those lines are cut.

The Channel Islands, which are located within the English Channel and off the coast of France, are feeling a disconnect from the rest of the world to some degree. The three main submarine fiber-optic cables pumping communications to the islands from the United Kingdom were completely severed, leaving the islands dependent on a single submarine cable linking them to France. Thus, the Channel Islands are still connected but will experience slow speeds for some time.

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JT Global is the largest service provider for Jersey, which is one of the larger Channel Islands. The company stated on Tuesday that the disruption will continue “over the next week or so,” and believes that a ship dragging its anchor along the seabed is the culprit, which apparently cut a number of other submarine cables in the process. Thus, all communications to and from the Channel Islands will be pushed through the single line connected to France until the other lines are repaired.

“With all traffic now using this connection, customers may notice some impact on services,” the company said. “JT engineers have been working on the situation throughout the night, and have already mobilized the specialist team that repairs major undersea cables. It is not possible to get a precise time yet on when those cables will be repaired, but the work will be completed as soon as possible.”

The coastguard from Jersey is currently investigating the issue. Master Pilot Peter Moore told the BBC that on Monday night a boat anchored north of Alderney — the most northern island of the group — and is believed to be the King Arthur. Moore can’t confirm if the King Arthur was responsible for the damage or not. However, he noted that ships that travel the English Channel have charts of the area that show where they cannot fish or drop anchor.

Guernsey, which is the other large island of the group, apparently did not feel the same impact. The island’s largest communications service provider Sure said on Tuesday that it is working with JT Global to reroute the latter company’s data through its network. Sure’s customers only experienced problems with international voice calls, all other communication services were unaffected.

“Sure’s multi-million pound investment in the HUGO subsea cable infrastructure operated without fault, demonstrating our ability to provide leading telecommunication services despite an unprecedented incident such as this,” Sure stated. “Our engineering teams worked through the night to put in place measures to divert our voice traffic through the HUGO network as well as to provide specialist technical support and infrastructure to JT.”

The BBC said on Tuesday that JT Global, Sure, and BT Group expects the repairs to take up to three weeks. Meanwhile, Jersey Treasury Minister Senator Alan Maclean said that the party responsible for severing the submarine lines will be held accountable for the damage. Mediterranea di Navigazione, owners of the King Arthur, have yet to comment.