infrastructure of the internet

One of my favorite books is Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum. We like to think of the Internet as this ethereal, intangible thing. But the reality is the Internet is very much tangible. Cell towers, fiber optic lines, Internet Exchange buildings, undersea cables, etc. I could write another post about Internet Exchanges, but right now I want to talk about undersea cables. If someone is reading this from Europe, the information had to travel between the US (my site is run on an AWS EC2 instance the data center of which is in Virginia) and their country of origin. Those data packets of light don’t travel through the air like Wi-Fi or 4G. Instead they go through a cable under the ocean, just like trans Atlantic telegraph cables once did. (I wonder if those cables still exist?).


In many cases, this network is somewhat robust. If the line between the US and the UK goes down, the line to France and then across the Channel could take the load. Or it could even take a longer route the other way around across the US, across the Pacific, and across Eurasia. But there are instances where anchors or even sharks damage these cables, causing Internet outages in countries that are not as redundantly connected. Recently Yemen suffered this fate. 


Perhaps the use of satellite constellations as the newest physical piece of Internet infrastructure could prevent these types of outages. But those constellations are yet to fully realize.