Here’s a map from telecom data company TeleGeography that shows how the Internet works around the world.
The map charts out all the undersea fibre optic cables that send Internet communication from country to country. There are more fibre optic cables that are land based, but they’re not charted here.
Paul Brodsky, an analyst at Telegeography explained the map to us saying, “The vast majority of internet traffic travels on fibre optic cables.” Many people think Internet connections go through satellites, says Brodsky, but that’s not the case. They run through these undersea cables.
The companies that lay these cables have fibre optic cables on a giant spool on their ships.
“The ship goes from country A to country B,” says Brodsky, “They literally just lay it on the bottom of the ocean. Close to the shore, they trench it out, but at a certain distance from the coast it just lays on the bottom of the ocean.”
A fibre optic cable is about the size of a human hair and it sends laser light pulses that deliver messages in milliseconds from New York to London.
The biggest risk to the cables are fishing boats (trawlers), and ships dragging anchor. Sometimes there are natural disasters like earthquakes. But if one cable is broken, Internet traffic can be redirected to another cable.
Brodsky says the companies that lay the cables can track problems. If they spot something, they can go out to the middle of the ocean, pull up the cable and cut out the damaged section and splice in a new segment of cable.
As you can see in the map, most of the countries that are near water are connected to these high speed Internet cables. In the future, expect more cables, says Brodsky. Now that the world is connected, the next step is to add more connections. Any country with just one cable will want two or three.
Here are some enlarged pictures of the map: