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A ship will locate the break in the line, sometimes by using a remote-controlled submarine device that can send signals up and down the cable, Scott says. The cable is then cut entirely at the break, and the little sub brings one half to the surface. Alternately, some operations simply use long grappling hooks to grab the cable.

Once the first half is brought to the surface, the crew splices on a long segment of replacement cable. The first half is let back to the sea floor; the other broken half is brought to the top, and the other end of the replacement cable is spliced on.

Unless the seas are rough, this double-splicing operation can take about 20 hours from start to finish, Scott says.

In the wake of the fiber breaks, Perhar says that his organization is encouraging ISPs and companies dependent on fast connections to continue diversifying their bandwidth sources as much as possible, and to lobby for new cable to be laid.

Telegeography Research counts at least four new fiber lines planned for the Europe-Egypt route over the next few years, including another by Flag Telecom, one by Telecom Egypt, another by the Egypt-based Orascom Telecom, and a fourth funded by the India-Middle East-Western Europe consortium of companies.

But even these will all use roughly the same route, says analyst Strong. That will keep this Mediterranean zone a "choke point" worth watching.

"With more cables, it's getting better over time," Strong says. "But there will still be a lack of physical, geographical redundancy. That is something of a concern."

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