Cutting the Internet off with a shovel

April 8, 2011

If you want to cut off the ability of a country to connect to the Internet then you no longer need a great deal of technical knowhow or a legal justification. No, you need just one thing: an elderly woman holding a shovel.

Humanity is now reliant on the Web for almost every part of our daily lives. We use the Internet to work, to shop, to house-hunt, to communicate, to share works of art, to be entertained, and of course, to either get laid or look at porn. Most of us have probably experienced some downtime at some point, when our service provider messes up to the degree that Internet access is denied, but it usually returns after a few hours. And you can always nip round to a neighbor or friend’s house, or even go back to work in order to gain temporary access.

However, imagine you couldn’t. Imagine that the whole country was taken offline by some external happening? Imagine you then find out that the cause of the country-wide outage was an elderly woman with a shovel cutting through the cable which provides Internet access to the whole of the population of your country.

The good people of Armenia don’t have to imagine this scenario, as they recently experienced it.

According to the Guardian newspaper, a 75-year-old Georgian woman was scavenging for copper to sell on as scrap when she sliced through a fiber-optic cable near the capital of Tbilisi. That cable turned out to be important to Armenia, as it provided 90 percent of its Internet capability. The vast majority of the country’s 3.2 million people were without a connection as a result.

The woman has not been named but was caught and is being investigated for the act which could land her in jail for three years if she’s found guilty. Internet access was mostly restored five hours later, but the fact that it was so easily interrupted must be a worry for the former Soviet state. Because selling copper as scrap to make money is apparently very common.

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