So it is back to – what we hope will be – normal service, following the cyber-isolation of the past week. Services are still patchy, and, according to the China Telecom official cited in this report, will continue to be until mid-January.
For those without access to a satellite link – and it has been claimed that the mass market service providers in Hong Kong were unwilling to make this expensive switch – it has been a frustrating period.
Special mention should perhaps go to Google and its Gmail service for being one of the few sites that remained open for business. A combination of Gmail, SCMP.com, BBC Online and Cricinfo (to keep tabs on England’s cricketing humiliation) were sufficient to keep this writer ticking over in Hong Kong during a week when, thankfully, most people were out of the office anyway.
It is interesting to point out that the earthquake which hit Taiwan on December 26 was stronger than the one that triggered the Southeast Asia tsunami exactly two years earlier. While the tsunami took around 230,000 lives, the death toll in Taiwan last week was just two.
As for the economic cost of damaging the undersea cables that connect much of the region with America and beyond, no one has named a price.
The flow of financial data to some countries was halted, which affected trading, but obviously the impact stretches much further. Anyone financially dependent on the passage of information – be it pizza delivery or freight delivery – along those cables has, in theory, lost out.
Those wanting to make contact with friends or family (some IDD services were also down) were left without the prop on which they have become so socially reliant that they take it for granted.
Questions will continue to be asked about our ever-growing dependency on the internet and why suitable back-up systems were not in place. Ultimately, the need for a reliable telecommunications infrastructure goes way beyond the service providers’ profit margins.