The Cloud Under The Sea

There are 800,000 miles of cables the size of a garden hose that carry the world’s international communications. Josh Dzieza writes a delightful long form piece at The Verge about these cables and the ships that repair them: The Cloud Under The Sea

If, hypothetically, all these cables were to simultaneously break, modern civilization would cease to function. The financial system would immediately freeze. Currency trading would stop; stock exchanges would close. Banks and governments would be unable to move funds between countries because the Swift and US interbank systems both rely on submarine cables to settle over $10 trillion in transactions each day. In large swaths of the world, people would discover their credit cards no longer worked and ATMs would dispense no cash. As US Federal Reserve staff director Steve Malphrus said at a 2009 cable security conference, “When communications networks go down, the financial services sector does not grind to a halt. It snaps to a halt.”

Corporations would lose the ability to coordinate overseas manufacturing and logistics. Seemingly local institutions would be paralyzed as outsourced accounting, personnel, and customer service departments went dark. Governments, which rely on the same cables as everyone else for the vast majority of their communications, would be largely cut off from their overseas outposts and each other. Satellites would not be able to pick up even half a percent of the traffic.