When most of the world thinks of the Internet, they picture intangible data floating through an unseen virtual dimension. Now, an interactive map from TeleGeography allows us to visualize the underwater, high-power Internet cables that span the ocean floor, connecting us all. The map shows different lines of communication in different colors that when clicked, reveals which countries use that cable to communicate.
For example, the yellow line that starts in California and spans the Mexican border connects in: Grover Beach, Calif.; Tijuana, Mexico; Mazatlán, Mexico; Fort Amador, Panama; and Unqui, Costa Rica. The average Internet user became aware of these undersea cables last year when a ship’s anchor tore through one in the Indian Ocean, hindering the flow of data from Europe to the Middle East.
TeleGeography’s map will help ships avoid damaging this critical infrastructure, which is extremely expensive to construct, costing between $100 and $500 million per cable. Beyond the cost of repair and replacement, there are bigger risks at stake: When a cable connecting Sicily and Egypt was severed in 2008, huge swaths of the Middle East and Asia lost connectivity, taking computers, electrical grids, and stock markets offline for hours.
As discussed in this issue’s cover story, Cyber-Location Nexus, this map is a telling example of why geography is relevant to cyberspace and the global cyber infrastructure.