>From South China Morning Post, updated at 2006/12/27 2.13pm Hong Kong Time:
The powerful earthquake that struck off southwestern Taiwan on Tuesday night, damaging undersea data cables, disrupted internet links between Hong Kong and much of the world on Wednesday.
Hong Kong's leading internet service provider PCCW said about 50 per cent of its connections to Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and North America were affected. Internet links between East Asia and Europe often run through North America. "The quake has some impact on our internet services. Internet connections to these places would be slower than usual," a PCCW spokesman told scmp.com. He said internet users in the region could experience congestion over the next few days. "Our crews are working to restore the cables," the spokesman said, adding the company's fixed-line services were unaffected. The disruption was widespread, hitting services in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong, with knock-on effects elsewhere, telecoms operators in the region said.
The PCCW spokesman said data capacity had been reduced to 50 per cent and there had been an upsurge in attempts to gain access to the internet as people were trying to get information about the quake. He cautioned that some internet users in the region could experience congestion over the next several days.
Leading telecom operators in Japan said damaged cables had jammed up phone lines and slowed down the internet there. NTT Communications, the internet and long-distance call business of Japan's largest telecom firm Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp., said some 1,400 toll-free phone lines as well as 84 international lines used internally by companies were affected. "Customers have found difficulty in making international calls and transmitting data," said Satoru Ito, a spokesman for KDDI, another of Japan's major telecommunication companies. He said the company was still probing the extent of the problem but that communications between Japan and other Asian countries were running at a slower pace through a backup system.
The Tokyo Stock Exchange, the world's largest exchange outside New York, was functioning without problems, a spokesman said. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong stock exchange said it too was also working without problems although several dealers said they had had difficulties accessing international news providers for information. Most of them said they received complaints from customers who used the internet for prices but the disruption had not affected trading. "Some of our customers who use the internet complained that they cannot look at stock prices online. That's our main problem," said Jackson Wong, investment manager at Tanrich Securities. "That has increased our workload because we have customers who keep calling and asking us the prices that we can get from the trading floor but in general our service has not been disrupted much." Other stock markets in the region appeared to be operating without major problems, with several setting all time highs as a recent bull run continued.
A major 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked Taiwan on Tuesday, leaving two people dead and at least 42 injured. The main telecoms provider there, Chunghwa Telecom, reported similar problems to its services. "Problems with underwater cables have affected Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and China. The internet capacity in Taiwan is about 40 per cent now so the service is jammed," Chunghwa Telecom said.
Telecommunications services in southern Taiwan were temporarily disrupted late on Tuesday after the quake but resumed later at night.
It was unclear when the Internet service would be back to normal, the company added.