When one thinks of climate change the internet is not the first thing that comes to mind, but the fact is climate change will ultimately affect everyone and everything including the internet. Rising sea levels would be an absolute disaster for the internet, specifically is coastal cities, as water submerges thousands of kilometres of fibre optic cables and hardware centres.
The Numbers are in, and things are not looking great according to a study completed by researchers from the Universities of Oregon and Wisconsin. This study estimates that if sea levels increase by only a foot in the US alone more than 4,067 miles of fibre optic cables will be submerged and over 1,101 hardware centres will be overtaken by water. It must be remembered that this sort of fibre optic internet infrastructure is nothing like the subsea transoceanic conduits which are used to transfer data around the globe. These fibre optic networks are for the most part VERY susceptible to water damage.
Has Weather Affected the Internet Before?
Yes! One of the biggest events took place in 2012 when Superstorm Sandy struck New York and flooded telecom and data centres. This saw a massive spike in internet outages in the area which took days to fix. Just 3 years later in Australia the air conditioners failed at one of the country’s biggest internet service providers due to a heat wave. This also resulted in a shutdown of internet services across Australia. And even just last year Hurricane Irma affected over a million people’s internet connectivity for more than a week when their service providers lost complete data connectivity for 7 days.
It Is Time to Look at the Facts
The research linked to on this page has highlighted the fact that densely populated coastal areas such as New York and Las Angeles are the types of cities that will be most susceptible to flooding. This does not bode well for places such as Cape Town, because when you compare the Internet Atlas (which is a map of the global internets structure) to the latest sea level rise data released by NASA, the writing is very much on the wall. Thankfully however companies such as MacroLan are laying some of the most advanced cable networks in the country and we are constantly upgrading ours systems and networks to ensure that they are some of the most robust not just in South Africa, but indeed the world.