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  • This video is sponsored by Notion.

  • While most of us access the internet through a wireless device, a physical link is still

  • required.

  • My website is hosted on a server in North America.

  • If you're viewing this on another continent, your internet provider has almost certainly

  • used a cable under the sea to retrieve the data.

  • Lines just a tad thicker than a garden hose crisscross the ocean, zipping data from LA

  • to Chile faster than the time it takes to finish this sentence.

  • These things are absolute marvels of engineering.

  • This isn't your grandparents' twisted pair of copper wire from the telephone pole

  • to the house.

  • There are more than 400 lines in service stretching over 1.3 million km or 800,000 miles.

  • Enough to go around the world 32 times.

  • Data travels as pulses of light inside the cables' optical fibers before arriving at

  • a landing station where it continues its journey overland.

  • Laying cables isn't new and dates back to the 1800s.

  • The first transatlantic telegraph cable allowed Queen Victoria to send a message to U.S.

  • President James Buchanan in 1858, opening up a new era in global communication.

  • During the Cold War, an American nuclear submarine secretly listened in when the Soviets used

  • an underwater cable to communicate between a naval base and its mainland.

  • Today, modern cables carry digital data, including internet traffic.

  • And many of these have recently been funded by tech companies which now own or lease

  • well over half of the availability bandwidth.

  • Facebook and Google are working with regional telecommunications providers to invest in

  • a new line called Echo to connect the US with Asia.

  • The tech giants may share the cable, but they'll have their own designated fiber pairs within

  • it.

  • Kind of like having your own lane on a multi-lane highway.

  • So, why are tech companies laying their own cables?

  • They used to lease bandwidth from telecom providers like AT&T who were the major investors

  • in building cables.

  • But now, they're opting to build their own pipes to meet the surge in demand for their

  • services - from YouTube, to Spotify, to cloud computing.

  • By building lines themselves, they have greater control over the infrastructure.

  • Hurricane Sandy was the wake-up call.

  • The superstorm that hit the US east coast in 2012 damaged an area that hosts a significant

  • number of cable landing points, disrupting communication for days.

  • Facebook and Microsoft realized it wasn't the best idea to have the cables clustered

  • in New York and New Jersey.

  • So, they partnered with telecommunications infrastructure company Telxius to design a

  • line further south - opting to make Virginia Beach the starting point for a new connection

  • to Spain.

  • When Marea went operational in 2019, it provided the fastest transatlantic internet connection

  • ever - transferring 160 terabits of data every second - equivalent to streaming 71 million HD movies at the same time.

  • The capacity on these cables is just enormous, it's nothing like we've seen three, four years ago.

  • Used to be you'd build a cable and there might be four fiber pairs on the cable.

  • Now it's routine for these new cables to come online with like 16 fiber pairs.

  • Tech giants are also choosing to fund the project entirely themselves.

  • Google announced in June it's building a private cable called Firmina running from

  • the U.S. to South America, which it says will be the longest line in the world.

  • By building privately, Google can decide exactly where to build routes to best suit its needs.

  • For example, it can minimize the distance between its data centers which then reduces

  • delay known as latency.

  • It can connect remote parts of the world.

  • Or reinforce an area with limited lines.

  • Google has built six cables on its own dime and has funded 16 projects overall.

  • Tech giants that already wield significant influence are likely to own more of the internet

  • backbone in the future.

  • Kind of like if Amazon owned the roads where packages are delivered.

  • I think the concern is that the big content providers would form some sort of monopoly

  • on international bandwidth but they're not sellers of bandwidth, right?

  • Like, they deploy it and use it themselves.

  • These companies fork over hundreds of millions of dollars to build the infrastructure which

  • can take years.

  • You won't see cables at the beach because they're buried below the seabed.

  • In the deep sea, large ships lay them on the ocean floor, sometimes 8,000 meters or 26,000

  • ft below - as deep as Mount Everest is high.

  • The actual wires inside that carry the bits of code are merely the width of a human hair

  • while the cable is much thicker, consisting of layers of protection.

  • Still, some hazards are unavoidable.

  • In 2016, a fishing trawler is believed to have severed a cable in Africa, taking the

  • whole of the west African country of Mauritania offline for two days and impacting nine other

  • nations.

  • And in 2013, authorities in Egypt accused three scuba divers of trying to cut a cable

  • in the Mediterranean sea.

  • Repairing a line can take weeks.

  • A specially equipped ship is dispatched to the region, pulls up the cable in the right

  • spot, makes the repair, before bringing it back down.

  • When possible, multiple lines covering the same route are laid to prevent disruptions.

  • Besides broken cables, there are also security concerns.

  • In 2020, Washington blocked the portion of Facebook and Google's planned cable linking

  • the U.S. to Hong Kong over fears of spying because one of the other backers was majority-owned

  • by a Chinese telecom company.

  • Similarly, in 2018, Australia prevented the Chinese company Huawei from funding a new

  • cable to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands over fears China could use the

  • technology to spy on the West which Huawei has denied.

  • Even if countries thwart efforts to build cables, the need for greater data capacity

  • still exists.

  • And satellites can't handle the demand.

  • SpaceX may be creating a high-speed satellite internet service, however, Starlink

  • doesn't have enough bandwidth to operate in dense urban areas and will mainly serve

  • rural regions.

  • So, undersea cables are still the most reliable way to transmit information to the greatest

  • number of people over large distances.

  • There's another way to stay connected.

  • When I work with my team, we share ideas, plan, and stay organized all in one place

  • using Notion.

  • We've created a page prioritizing all of the tasks.

  • On another page, we've mapped out the outline of a future video.

  • You can personalize the pages however you like.

  • I've also got a private workspace with my own To-Do list and various notes to help me

  • stay on track.

  • I first tried Notion when they approached me about sponsoring a video and now, I can't

  • imagine my life without it.

  • Everything is in one place, on one app, that I can access on my computer or my phone.

  • If you'd like to give Notion a try - whether to use it for yourself or to collaborate with

  • others - you can sign up with the link in my description.

  • For Newsthink, I'm Cindy Pom.

This video is sponsored by Notion.

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Why Tech Giants Are Laying Their Own Undersea Cables

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    joey joey posted on 2021/06/19
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