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Submarine cable outage hits Kiwi internet

Labour, Kim Dotcom call for more pipes

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An 'catastrophic failure' of the Southern Cross Cable, a network of cables linking Australia to New Zealand, the USA and other south pacific nations, has re-ignited pressure on the New Zealand government to support investment in international cable capacity.

According to a leaked email referencing Southern Cross’s customer Vocus Communications, released by New Zealand’s Labour ICT spokesperson Clare Curran, an outage last Friday saw the network“operating under a hazard for reduced protection."

“Southern Cross has had a catastrophic failure at the Alexandria landing station this morning. We are working with SX on the issue … Southern Cross have admitted this morning they performed an unauthorised and un-notified software change to their wavelength switching platform at Alexandria, this blew up,” the memo stated.

Southern Cross Cable conceded that an outage did occur on Friday morning but claimed that its description as a catastrophic failure was “misleading and inaccurate.”

In a statement, Southern Cross confirmed that there a limited outage affecting 10% of active capacity. The outage occurred at one of its Sydney cable stations, Alexandria and impacting four of Southern Cross’s customers.

“A problem occurred and the switch was reverted to its original software. The incident occurred as a part of authorised work taking place to expand capacity on the Southern Cross Network,” the cable carrier claimed.

Curran used the outage to raise concerns over New Zealand’s reliance on a single international cable network, describing the situation as “a crisis for New Zealand”.

“The government must address the issue of international connectivity with urgency and provide a full assessment of the risks New Zealand faces through software failures and natural events on the single cable,” she said.

Last week Curran backed plans floated by controversial internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom, who wants to resurrect plans for the failed Pacific Fibre network.

“The sentiment is right. Kiwi businesses, particularly in the technology sector, have been calling for a second cable for some time now. Their concerns need to be taken seriously. As Kim Dotcom has pointed out the Government is quite happy to invest billions in highways of dubious significance while at the same time neglecting the international fibre highway connections that will help our economy flourish,” Curran said.

The Pacific Fibre submarine cable project which proposed to link the USA, New Zealand and Australia collapsed in August after failing to find finance.

Dotcom leapt on that failure last week, promising to build a cable himself and offer free internet to New Zealanders. ®

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