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Originally published Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Middle East Internet service disrupted

Internet outages disrupted business and personal usage across a wide swath of the Middle East on Wednesday after an undersea cable in the...

CAIRO, Egypt — Internet outages disrupted business and personal usage across a wide swath of the Middle East on Wednesday after an undersea cable in the Mediterranean was damaged, government officials and Internet-service providers said.

An official who works in the customer-care department of Internet service provider DU said the problem was with a cable between Alexandria, Egypt, and Palermo, Italy.

Six ships were diverted from the port at Alexandria because of bad weather, and one may have severed the cables with an anchor, said a spokesman for Flag Telecom Group, which operates one of the cables.

India and countries across the Middle East experienced slow Internet connections and problems making international calls to the U.S. and Europe, the spokesman said. The break will take 12 to 15 days to fix, he said.

"It's a national disaster," said Joseph Metry, network supervisor at Orascom Telecom, the biggest mobile-phone company in the Middle East and North Africa. The problem is affecting all Egyptian Internet users, Metry said.

Internet service also was disrupted in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, which markets itself as a top Mideast business and luxury tourist hub. Two ISPs said international telephone service was also affected.

One of the ISPs, DU, was completely down in the morning; browsing remained slow even after Internet service was restored by the afternoon.

Customers of AT&T, the biggest U.S. phone company, were affected by the disruption, spokesman Michael Coe said. He didn't know how many customers were affected.

San Antonio-based AT&T is part of the group that owns the cable, Coe said. Verizon Communications, the second-biggest U.S. phone company, said some of its customers also were affected by the cable break.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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