Melting Arctic ice might mean faster internet for some In recent years, enough Arctic ice has melted to clear parts of the Northwest Passage for shipping traffic. (Jesse Allen/NASA Earth Observatory/Suomi National Polar-Orbiting Partnership/AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool)
Melting Arctic ice might mean faster internet for some
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For centuries, a clear route through the Arctic's Northwest Passage was the stuff of dreams for explorers throughout North America. A direct route past the North Pole to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans would provide all manner of opportunities for shipping and trade. But it wasn't until Roald Amundsen's 1903 expedition that sailors were first able to chart a path through the shifting Arctic ice.
 
Now, as Aaron Frank reports for Motherboard, melting Arctic ice has opened up opportunities. We could see a kind of connection between Europe and Asia that Amundsen never could have dreamed of: faster Internet.

The Internet might seem like an ethereal, invisible network. It connects every laptop and smartphone on the planet. In reality, it is propped up by a very real, very large network of cables crisscrossing the ocean floor. For years, communications networks have relied on tens of thousands of fiber optic cables to establish connections between countries. The shortest and most direct connections provided the fastest links to the Internet. As the Internet grew, so did this undersea network. Crossing the Arctic Circle is the most direct path to lay cables to connect European and Asian networks. But until recently, Arctic ice has prevented installation.

"It is more viable for (companies) to propose these new and innovative routes than ever before," Nicole Starosielski, a media, culture and communications researcher at New York University, tells Jeremy Hsu for Scientific American.
 
As these new pathways are opening up in the Arctic, communications companies are jumping on the chance to lay new cables. Right now, a ship commissioned by Quintillion Networks, a company based out of Anchorage, Alaska, is beginning to install undersea fiber optic cables, with the hopes of eventually laying the foundations for a direct connection between Tokyo and London. This is according to Kevin Baird, reporting for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The rapidly melting ice is worrying to climate scientists for all kinds of reasons, including less habitat for ice-dwelling critters like polar bears, rising sea levels, and disruption to the ocean's currents. But these plans to lay new networks in previously inaccessible regions of the Arctic Circle mean that people living in remote areas will finally be able to connect to the Internet, Baird reports. While much of the developed world has long had easy access to high-speed broadband Internet, many people in small Arctic communities in Alaska and Canada still have to do with slow and expensive satellite connections.
 
"There are enormous possibilities for local businesses and individuals who want to stay in their village and make a living," Tara Sweeney, a spokesperson for the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, a native Alaska company that represents the interests of Inupiat communities in the Arctic Slope region, tells Baird.
 
When the first stages of Quintillion's plan are finished, people in remote Alaskan communities will not only have access to services like online classes and medical data, but they also will be able to do things that most people take for granted, like streaming movies and television shows through services like Netflix, Baird reports.
 
While the environmental impact of the melting Arctic ice is significant, the changing face of the region could offer new opportunities to better the lives of some people who so far have been left behind by an increasingly connected world.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why are cables put on the ocean floor rather than floated on the surface?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (7)
  • sydneys-cel
    8/08/2016 - 11:14 a.m.

    The cables are more convenient. It allows faster connections between different countries, and is more direct.

  • emmab-cel
    8/08/2016 - 11:30 a.m.

    I am happy that we are getting faster internet due to the ice melting, but the ice melting enough to do that just shows how bad global warming is getting. I think that we should work on making sure that the ice doesn't melt, and focus on right now instead of the future.

  • danielc1-pel
    8/11/2016 - 12:26 p.m.

    so they wont get in the way plus there is more ice on the top than the bottom and the ice prevents it from connecting and installation.

  • jareds-cel
    8/22/2016 - 11:23 a.m.

    Cables are put along the ocean floor rather than the surface because it allows us to have faster internet. This is because the cables run all across the world and not just invisible like everybody assumes. Also if we laid the cables on top of the ocean there's a big possibility they could get damaged. For example, boats could come by and tear them up or lightning could strike them causing them to malfunction. But if they were on the bottom nobody could mess with them and the internet could keep running.

  • parkerz-cel
    8/22/2016 - 11:25 a.m.

    cables are put on the ocean floor rather than on the surface because it is more easily accessed routes on the floor. if the cables were on the top of the surface they could be easily destroyed and easily messed with. the melting ice caps mean that more cables can be laid because it will help people who don't normally have internet access to finally have it. the ice caps melting have also created easier routes to Alaska and other Atlantic islands.

  • kmand676-eva
    9/02/2016 - 09:21 a.m.

    I think the story is cool and educational. you guys should read it.

  • kmand676-eva
    9/02/2016 - 09:26 a.m.

    so no sea animal will not choke and die. this story is so awesome and educational.# kaiden mandakis #

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