The existence of the Internet is threatened

Ceria Alfonso
Julio 20, 2018

Fiber optic cables buried in largely inhabited coastal regions of the USA across thousands of miles could soon be flooded, said the scientist.

Much of this infrastructure is buried and follows long-established rights of way, typically paralleling highways and coastlines, Paul Barford, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of computer science and an authority on the "physical Internet", said in a statement.

A worrying new study found that damage will likely occur far sooner than previously estimated, with over 4,000 miles of fiber optic cables predicted to be at risk of being submerged in as soon as 15 years. The expectation was that we'd have 50 years to plan for it.

To the best of our knowledge, ours is the first study of the effects of climate change-related sea level rise on Internet infrastructure.

The situation is particularly dire for internet infrastructure in New York City, Miami and Seattle.

According to the team's analysis, New York, Miami, and Seattle are the most susceptible United States cities, but given the way the internet works, the effects won't be contained to just those areas, as any data connections ferried through affected regions could be impacted.

It's a pretty troubling scenario and one a University of OR researcher says will happen sooner than we may think because critical internet infrastructure will eventually be underwater due to rising sea levels. Buried fiber optic cables are created to be water resistant, but unlike the marine cables that ferry data under the ocean, they are not waterproof.

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A complex network of fiber optic cables, the physical internet, carries data to and from your computer in the blink of an eye.

Ocean levels will rise inexorably because heat-trapping industrial gases already emitted will linger in the atmosphere, melting more ice, it said. The damage will ripple across the internet, says Barford, potentially disrupting global communications.

It is vital that we curb emissions as soon as possible to avoid an even greater rise, a German-led team of researchers said in a new report. We don't have 50 years'.

According to data from the National Ocean Service, the sea level is rising at approximately an eighth of an inch per year, but that rate is increasing.

"We will continue to take all potential risks, such as the effects of climate change, into consideration in our ongoing planning and deployment of existing and new facilities", their representative wrote. "We have not yet comprehended how widespread the impacts of climate change are going to be, and this is a good example of that", said Snover. It is in densely-populated coastal areas that the cables are most vulnerable to increase in sea levels due to climate change. "But keeping the sea at bay is hard".

The experts say it's unclear how much mitigation efforts, such as sea walls, will help the problem. "In certain locations where cabling will be submerged for long periods of time or consistently exposed, such as beaches or in subways, we use submarine underwater cabling". "Standard internet infrastructure deployments are created to be weather and water resistant, they are not created to be surrounded by or under water", said the report.

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