Usually when there are internet problems in former Soviet countries, people suspect nefarious government interference.

This time, though, it was a granny on the hunt for scrap metal who damaged fibre-optic cables leading from Georgia to Armenia and knocked the country's internet out for hours.

The 75-year-old woman was hunting for copper in rural Georgia when she dug up the cable that is part of a network providing internet to much of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

"She found the cable while collecting scrap metal and cut it with a view to stealing it," Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Zura Gvenetadze told AFP. The woman was arrested in the village of Ksani and charged with damaging property.

"Taking into account her advancing years, she has been released pending the end of the investigation and subsequent trial," said Gvenetadze.

Georgia provides Armenia with around 90 per cent of its internet capacity, and the damaged cable meant the country was without properly functioning internet for more than 12 hours one day last week. Thousands of homes and businesses in Georgia also found themselves disconnected.

Giorgi Ionatamishvili, a spokesman for Georgian Railway Telecom, told Bloomberg the cable belonged to the company and said customers suffered "massive and catastrophic" damage. "We don't how she found the optic cable, which was secure," he said, adding that bad weather and mudslides may have made the cables more vulnerable.

In 2009, another person scavenging for scrap metal also struck a cable, causing an outage in Georgia.

- INDEPENDENT