CAIRO (AFP) — Egypt’s telecommunications ministry appealed Thursday for Internet users to stop downloading movies and MP3s so as to give priority to businesses after damage to an undersea cable forced all traffic onto backup systems.
The appeal came after two submarine cables in the Mediterranean were damaged for an unknown reason, causing disruption to Internet services in the Middle East and south Asia.
“Two of our cables are affected; everyone will go onto a third cable,” ministry spokesman Mohammed Taymur told AFP. “But that will not be enough bandwidth. The cable will be overloaded and no one will be able to get access” unless people honour the ministry request.
“People should know how to use the Internet because people who download music and films are going to affect businesses who have more important things to do,” he said.
Asked whether pornographic movies accounted for much Internet traffic to Egypt, Taymur said “That’s another matter. Everyone downloads what they want. You can’t forbid people from downloading certain movies.”
He said a company had been asked to repair the cables but that “for the time being we don’t know the cause. The two cables are a kilometre (over half a mile) apart and we don’t know what could have affected both at the same time.”
Like India, Egypt has a major call centre industry which has been affected by the outage.
A ministry statement said call centres were only able to function at 30 percent of their usual capacity.
“Of course the economy will be affected because of the reliance on Internet,” Taymur said.
The statement said other Arab countries had been affected, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Qatar and Bahrain.
Taymur said some phone calls to Europe and the United States had been affected, while approximately 70 percent of Internet users were also affected.”
India’s vital outsourcing industry, which relies heavily on the Internet, was was also grappling with a major communications disruption Thursday after damage to the cables.