What caused the 19-hour Internet blackout in Syria?

State media reports blame the outage on a failure in a key optical cable. Others aren't so sure. 

A torn picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is seen on a government building in Raqqa province, east Syria on May 8. After a long outage, Internet service in Syria appears to have finally been restored.

After a 19 hour blackout, Internet service in Syria appears to finally be restored. 

The outage, which reportedly affected the entire country, was initially noted on Tuesday night, and confirmed by Google and the digital security company Umbrella. But by early Wednesday afternoon, many Syrian websites were up and running again. 

So what caused the outage? Well, according to Al Jazeera, the state news agency in Syria blamed the whole thing on a "fault in optical fibre cables." But many analysts are skeptical about that explanation. 

"Our monitoring shows that Syria's international internet connectivity is through at least four providers, and published submarine cable maps show connectivity through three active cables," David Belson of Akamai told the BBC. "As such, the failure of a single optical cable is unlikely to cause a complete internet outage for the country."

Instead, much speculation has centered on the possibility that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ordered the blackout, in order to damp down on the Web activity of rebel groups. 

"[W]e're deeply concerned that this blackout is a deliberate attempt to silence Syria's online communications and further draw a curtain over grave events currently unfolding on the ground in Syria," reads a new report from the Electronic Freedom Foundation

Of course, this isn't the first time the Internet has gone down in Syria. There were also blackouts in June, July, August, and November of 2012. But as Jim Cowie, the chief technology officer at Renesys, notes today, there's a silver lining to all those outages: Namely that they can, over time, draw attention to the overall delicateness of a network, as has been the case in Pakistan

"One has to look past short-term dysfunction and think about what comes next," Cowie wrote. "Every significant Internet disconnection, and the local and global reaction of outrage and dismay, sends an important signal about the fragility of the underlying system. It makes single points of failure and control visible, so that those fragilities can be found and fixed, and the Internet as a whole can continue to gain strength from disorder." 

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