The Internet is In Danger of Drowning – Cheddar Explains

So, Alison, can you explain what Internet is? When you think about the Internet, do you picture something like this? This is technically the web. The Internet is a series of tubes. These are the tubes that are today’s underground superhighways of communicate. The Internet is the physical stuff that makes the web work, a series of cables and routers daisy chain together to form a worldwide network. As critical as that network is to our lives, it’s surprisingly vulnerable. New research projects that as sea levels rise, the Internet could drown. From highways to railroads and the telegraph to the telephone, our infrastructure follows people. The Internet followed a similar pattern. We laid a lot of the cables along existing roads and tunnels, which puts much of it right along the coast. Researchers at the University of Oregon and the University of Wisconsin mapped the physical infrastructure of the Internet and then overlaid that map with the latest projections for sea level rise. When you look at their maps, you can see that just a one foot rise in sea level threatens thousands of miles of these cables and hundreds of critical connecting points. That’s enough to wipe out New York City’s Internet. The researchers were surprised by how quickly this could all happen in a soonest 15 years. Cities like New York, Miami, and Seattle have a lot of this critical infrastructure and they’re right by the coast. Because of the way the Internet is physically laid out, an outage in New York could cause problems around the world. The Internet is a network of networks, kind of like a subway system with local and express lines. So, when you send an e-mail, that data gets transformed into pulses of light, and those pulses get beamed through cables until they reach the recipient at the final destination. The light pulses start out on what we can think of as the local line from your house to the cable companies box down the street. That’s where all of your neighbors connections join up, and then that line connects to a bigger regional hub. These are Internet exchanges, places where the cables from lots of different networks and providers physically connect to the long distance cables that run for hundreds of miles to other Internet exchanges where they connect to other local networks and on and on. So, these Internet exchanges are where your e-mail transfers to the express line. Think of it like Grand Central Station. You can imagine the fallout if a connection like that were to fail. Without the Internet, you can’t take money out of ATMs or pay for anything with a credit card, grocery stores have trouble checking their inventory and ordering more food, hospitals can’t keep track of patient records, and Wall Street can’t function. This doesn’t mean we’re doomed to a life in a watery Internet less HealthScape. In 2012, floods from Hurricane Sandy wiped out Internet to neighborhoods in Manhattan and the Rockaways, and some of those outages lasted for weeks. The same thing happened in Miami last year after Hurricane Irma. It was a wake-up call. New York City formed a resiliency council to study how to shore up its infrastructure against storms and rising seas. The city is looking to build in redundant conduits and fortify what already exists. Miami is taking similar steps. Verizon, which suffered catastrophic flooding at its critical facilities during Sandy, began replacing copper wiring with new more resilient fiber optic cable and started moving equipment from basements to higher floors. The research team behind the study points out that another solution could be to simply reroute Internet traffic bypassing flooded points. The researchers also say whatever we decide to do, we’d better get on it sooner rather than later. Thanks for watching. Hit the comments with your thoughts, like, subscribe, and we’ll see you next time.

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