NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (AFP) – Tonga’s two-week spell of virtual cyber darkness has ended, with authorities announcing yesterday that full Internet services had been restored to the Pacific island kingdom.
“Welcome back to the Internet #Tonga. We are happy to report fibre cut is repaired and #Tonga is back online,” Network Atlas, which maps the world’s submarine and terrestrial networks, tweeted.
The Pacific island nation of 110,000 people – which relies heavily on the Internet for daily supplies and vital tourist earnings – was plunged into virtual cyber darkness when the sole cable providing a digital link to the outside world was severed.
For two weeks, until cable repair ship Reliance restored the link on Saturday, Tonga has survived on a small, locally operated satellite service to maintain limited international phone services and to process credit card payments.
Social media sites including Facebook and YouTube were blocked to allow essential services to continue.
“We woke up to pretty good news this morning,” Tonga government spokesman Lopeti Senituli told Radio New Zealand.
“It’s been two quiet weeks, so people are catching up on the gossip and the what-have-yous.”
Chamber of Commerce Presi-dent Paula Taumoepeau said businesses were hit hard by the blackout while banks were unable to process money transfers for families who rely on income from relatives working overseas.
“Some of the suppliers couldn’t get their orders out in time, regular orders didn’t happen. There was a lot of disruption and we’re hoping things are back to normal on Monday,” Taumoepeau said.
Although the cause of the blackout has not been established, officials are investigating the possibility that it was cut by a large ship dragging an anchor along the seabed.