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Geopolitics and Climate Change Heighten Undersea Cable Concerns

Global political unrest and climate change are bringing new attention to the fragility of the undersea cable networks that carry about 95% of international digital traffic.

“The cloud is not in the sky, it is under the sea.” That was a comment from an author of a government study to assess new potential disruptions of undersea communications cables.

Roughly 95% of intercontinental global data traffic travels over undersea cables that run across the ocean floor. Globally, the international bandwidth used by network operators has nearly doubled from 2020 to 2022 and has now reached 3.9 Pbps, according to The organization is known for developing submarine cable maps based on data from its Global Bandwidth Research Service.

With such volumes of traffic being carried over the network of undersea cables, increased attention is being focused on the fragility of the system. A single cable cut can bring down services of the major cloud providers, as was the case in an incident last year.

While most disruptions and cable cuts are caused by fishing or anchoring accidents, or natural disasters such as the impact of the Tonga volcano, there is growing concern about sabotage due to political unrest in Europe and the Far East. And new worries are emerging due to the impact of climate change.

On the political front, last year’s sabotage of the Nord Stream pipeline, while not a communications cable, highlighted the vulnerability of undersea systems to nefarious actors.

More recently, the potential impact of climate change has been raised. Research published in February in the journal Earth-Science Reviews by scientists from the United Kingdom’s National Oceanography Centre and the University of Central Florida found that “ocean and nearshore disturbances caused by extreme weather events have exposed hot spots along the transglobal cable network, increasing the risk of internet outages.”

Read the full article on Network Computing

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