Internet disrupted in major cities after fiber optic sabotage

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Paris (AFP) – Malicious acts of an unprecedented scale on the national fiber optic network, the origin of which is still unknown, caused slowdowns and cuts in Internet access in several major French cities, such as Grenoble, Besançon and Reims. Wednesday and Strasbourg.

“Such an incident of this magnitude never happens,” a source familiar with the matter told AFP. “It’s the first time, and we don’t know who it is, at the moment,” he continued, noting that control devices had been put in place to prevent this from happening elsewhere. .

“Cable cuts have been confirmed in Ile-de-France affecting the fixed and mobile network,” tweeted Digital Secretary of State Cédric O.

The Zone ADSL site has identified 9,156 fixed network failures in France in the last 24 hours, mainly disrupting the customers of the Free operator and to a lesser extent SFR.

“The attacks took place yesterday at 4 am. Since this morning, the teams have been mobilized,” operator Free told AFP, which hopes the network will be “restored during the day”.

Several of its customers have complained on Twitter that they no longer have internet speed through their Freebox after a blackout that occurred during the night.

“Three of the four arteries of the Free,” called the “backbone,” and which make up “the backbone of their network, have been vandalized,” other sources said.

SFR, for its part, confirmed “several fiber cuts” around Lyon and Ile-de-France, confirming the trail of vandalism.

“Digital terrorism”?

According to initial findings, these are “long-distance” interregional fiber-optic cables passing through motorways, railways and waterways, which have been deliberately cut off at various locations, in particular the Paris-Lyon-Paris link. Strasbourg.

“The equipment is on deck” and “work is underway,” said SFR, which manages several fiber-optic “pods” used especially by Free and alternative operators.

On the other hand, its competitor Bouygues Telecom “does not use the links affected by these breakdowns and mobile and fixed services are provided normally,” the group told AFP.

The logo of the operator Free, at the entrance of a store in Rouen on November 19, 2011 KENZO TRIBOUILLARD AFP

Orange is also unaffected by the cuts, according to a company spokesman.

The backbone of an Internet network, the “backbone” is used to interconnect Internet traffic between different geographic areas using very high speed fibers.

“It’s a kind of fiber + hub +”, explains an industrialist in the sector. “When you cut this, you cut access to an entire region.”

However, a cut can be avoided thanks to the interconnection of networks and operators can thus offer a degraded service.

“It’s a bit like cutting off highways and redirecting traffic to national highways,” said Sami Slim, CEO of Telehouse, one of the Internet traffic hubs in France.

“Is it an act of digital terrorism? Maybe. There was a major impact there because the coordination of the cable attacks was done well, by people who inevitably know the network,” Nicolas Guillaume, leader of the alternative operator. dedicated to Netalis professionals.

The latter, who intends to file a complaint, has suffered “either very severe slowdowns (in traffic), or rare service interruptions for just over 2 hours” in the Burgundy-Franche-Comté region.

InfraNum, the federation that brings together all the French manufacturers of digital infrastructure, on Wednesday strongly condemned “this irresponsible aggression” on fiber-optic networks.

“Given the essential and strategic nature of today’s networks, these cuts are likely to have dramatic consequences, such as the delay in rescue operations,” lamented its president Philippe Le Grand, who insists on the need to launch a major network resilience plan “. . “

In March 2020, telecommunications cables were intentionally cut off in Ile-de-France, Vitry and Ivry (Val-de-Marne), temporarily depriving tens of thousands of Orange subscribers of Internet access while those centers of data saw their operations interrupted.

A complaint had been lodged and an investigation had been opened, but one side of the case told AFP on Wednesday that it had no “news from the authorities” on the matter.

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