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The insane process of connecting the world through undersea Internet cables

How Undersea Internet Cables Work

We’ve oohed and ahhed over interactive maps that detail the world’s mysterious network of undersea Internet cables, but a new report over at Builtvisible is taking things to an entirely new depth. The exhaustive account looks at the entire history of the process, ranging from experiments in the 1840s to a rash of undersea surveillance taps in the 1970s. Today, there are 263 active cables that carry upwards of 95 percent of global Internet traffic, with 22 new drops planned for the coming years.

Hungry for a few more nuggets from the report?

  • Underwater cables carried 51 billion gigabytes of data per month in 2013, and that figure is expected to swell to 132 billion gigabytes in 2018.
  • While 10 billion “things” accessed the Internet in 2010, Cisco expects that figure to increase fivefold by 2020.
  • Currently, less than 40 percent of the worldwide population has any access to the Internet at all.
  • In Africa, some 70 percent of its population has a WiFi-connected device, but only 10 percent have access to the Internet
  • The planet’s least reliable undersea Internet cable? The drop between Rockport, Maine and two tiny islands just a few miles offshore. This single stretch had a staggering 45 faults between 1990 and 2005, largely attributed to the rocky sea bed below.

The entire report is well worth a read, and it’s linked below in our source section. Be sure to carve out a big lunch break if you’re looking to digest it in one fell swoop, though.

Darren Murph has roamed the consumer electronics landscape for nearly a decade, earning a Guinness World Record as the planet’s most prolific professional blogger along the way. His work has been featured in Popular Science, Engadget, BGR, Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom owner’s magazine,, Gadling, Thrillist, and ShermansTravel, and he has appeared on ABC, PBS, CTV and NBC. He is presently dabbling in quantum physics in a bid to construct the 30-hour day.