An island group belonging to Taiwan has been without internet for the past month. Taiwanese officials blame two Chinese ships for cutting cables that caused the outage.
The Matsu islands have a population of about 14,000. The people living there depend on two undersea cables that bring internet service to the community from Taiwan’s main island.
Taiwan’s National Communication Commission said it had found evidence that a Chinese ship cut the first internet cable about 50 kilometers off the Chinese coast in early February. About a week later, another ship cut the second cable, the commission said.
Taiwan’s government stopped short of accusing the Chinese government of cutting the cables on purpose. There has been no direct evidence to prove that the Chinese ships were responsible, The Associated Press reported.
People living on the islands have since been using a microwave radio signal system to receive limited internet. That system uses older technology and has resulted in long delays for basic internet services.
Internet cables are covered in steel armor when placed in less deep waters. But even with such protection, cables can easily get cut by equipment used by ships and fishing boats.
The cables had been cut a total of 27 times during the past five years, data from Taiwan’s largest telecommunications company showed.
“We can’t rule out that China destroyed these on purpose,” said Su Tzu-yun. He is a defense expert at the Taiwan government-run National Defense and Security Research group. He added, “Taiwan needs to invest more resources in repairing and protecting the cables.”
Taiwan's coast guard chased the fishing boat that cut the first cable on February 2. But the boat fled back to Chinese waters, a Taiwanese government official told the AP. Officials said they had found two Chinese ships in the area where the cables were cut.
Wang Chung Ming is the head of Lienchiang County, the official name for the Matsu islands. He said he traveled to Taiwan with a legislator from Matsu shortly after the internet broke down to ask for help. He was promised the area would get priority in any future internet backup plans.
Taiwan’s National Communications Commission said it would put in place a data gathering system in an effort to prevent future cable cutting incidents.
Some Pacific island nations still depend on satellites as a backup for internet services, said Jonathan Brewer, a telecommunications consultant from New Zealand who works across Asia.
I’m Ashley Thompson.