Under the Sea

Published January 16th, 2024 by JMSCapitalGroup

Where is the internet? Brian Klaas asks this question and points out that while servers, computers, and wires are numerous, a better answer, beyond the data centers that also play an important role, would be found under the sea, in the form of the vast network of undersea cables that connect the world.

A map of the world

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Today’s modern world largely runs on about 500 undersea cables, each typically about the width of a thick garden hose, that span 900,000 miles across the seas. Long gone are the days in 1865 when a financier named James Fisk could utilize a fast boat to London to short Confederate bonds before mail arrived in England carrying news of the Confederacy’s impending defeat. So much information is at our fingertips that we hardly need to think of the infrastructure behind it.

About every 3 days, though, a cable needs repaired. Often fishing boats are the culprit, accidentally snagging a cable, although sharks are also known to have chewed on the lines. There are specialized boats that raise, repair, and lower the fiberoptic cables when a fix is needed. Natural disasters can also strike, as occurred in 2022 in Tonga, which lost global internet service for 5 weeks after a volcano and ensuing tsunami severed its connecting cables.

But the greatest threat to the fiberoptic cable network may be sabotage. If national security depends on fast access to information, then it depends on the stability of the undersea cable networks. Klaas cites reporting that Taiwan has suffered 27 cable breaks in the past 5 years, reputedly caused by Chinese fishing boats. Dependence on undersea cables is a military vulnerability for Taiwan; it is also a vulnerability for the rest of the world. If the geopolitical conflicts in Ukraine and in Israel/Palestine are harbingers of additional, future conflicts, then we may find out just how much this complex world relies on a relatively fragile system of underwater connectors.


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This material is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any financial instrument or investment strategy. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be or interpreted as a recommendation. Any forecasts contained herein are for illustrative purposes only and are not to be relied upon as advice.

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