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Asked by Bria Cummerata

How does the internet cross the ocean?


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Otis Steuber
December 23, 2019 5:18PM

Nearly 100 percent of international data crosses the ocean via undersea cables. They’re only about three inches in diameter, but they span entire oceans. Plows dig grooves in the sandy ocean floor, lay the cables in, and the current buries them; some are buried as deep as Mount Everest is high.

This seems insane—it is insane—but we’ve actually been using ocean-spanning cables since 1866, when the first successful trans-Atlantic telegraph line was laid. In 1956, we started making international phone calls via deep sea cables. Today, there’s a system of nearly 300 undersea cables that transport our data.

Oh, and to answer your potential followup question: Even if you’re using wifi or phone data, it eventually reaches a physical cable and, if need be, sprints across the ocean.

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Hey Jingli
6 days ago
While most of us now largely experience the internet through Wi-Fi and phone data plans, those systems eventually link up with physical cables that swiftly carry the information across continents or across oceans.
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December 24, 2019 7:52AM
99% of international data is transmitted through wires lying on the ocean floor called submarine communications cables. In total, their length exceeds hundreds of thousands of miles, and such wires are laid even at a depth of 9 km. Installation of cables is carried out by special stacking ships. They need not only to drop the wire with the cargo attached to the bottom but also to ensure that it passes only on a flat surface, bypassing coral reefs, wreckage debris, and other common obstacles. The diameter of the shallow cable is about 6 cm, but the deep-sea cables are much thinner - the thickness of a marker. The difference in parameters is due to the shared vulnerability factor - practically nothing happens at a depth of over 2 km, so the cable does not need to be coated with a galvanized protective layer. Wires located at shallow depths are buried at the bottom using directional jets of water under high pressure. Although the cost of laying one mile of the submarine cable varies depending on its total length and purpose, this process always costs hundreds millions of dollars.