Internet access in Iran has been affected because of the damage caused to undersea cables providing internet services to the Middle East and India, Iranian press reports suggest.
However, government officials have played down the impact and said they have been able to switch access routes and minimize the damage.
Press coverage of the cable cuts has not been extensive but some reports suggest that services had been disrupted. "Users say that speed of access to the internet in various parts of the country has been reduced significantly in the past two days," ISNA news agency reported on 5 February.
"Apparently the damage to the underwater cables has played a role in this," the agency added.
ISNA also quoted an unnamed communications expert as saying that "gateways and links to other countries have been cut, requiring the diversion of traffic, leading to subsequent slowdown of the internet speed."
Emruz.biz news outlet reported on 3! February that "internet users throughout the country are facing cuts in, or severe slowdowns of, their internet links."
But the head of Iran's Telecommunication Infrastructure Company (TIC) said that networks had not slowed down significantly.
"Iran relies on these [cable] capacities to some extent, but communication links with Iran are operating through Turkey and other routes," Mohammad Baqer Zohurifar said. (ISNA, 5 Feb)
"I don't think there has been any particular problem with our internet," he said.
TIC provides all Iranian customers in the state and private sectors with transmission facilities.
The company spokesman reportedly said that "public curiosity" about the cuts had led to an increase in internet traffic, and a subsequent slowdown. (emruz)
Some bloggers have found the affair a source of amusement, identifying sharks and swordfish as the culprits. The rumours that the cuts were a US/Israeli conspiracy and a political me! ssage to Iran were mentioned on a few sites.
Source: BBC Monitoring research 6 Feb 08