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. A direct route past the North Pole to connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans would provide all manner of opportunities. Mostly, it would improve shipping and trade. But it could not begin to happen until 1903. That is when sailors with Roald Amundsen's expedition were able to chart a path. It passed through the shifting Arctic ice.
 
Now, melting Arctic ice has opened up opportunities. This is according to reporting by Aaron Frank for Motherboard.  We could see a kind of connection between Europe and Asia that Amundsen never could have dreamed of. It will be 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. It is made up of cables. They crisscross the ocean floor. For years, communications networks have relied on tens of thousands of fiber optic cables. They 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," noted Nicole Starosielski. She is a media, culture and communications researcher. She teaches at New York University. She was interviewed by Jeremy Hsu. He reports for Scientific American.
 
Now, communications companies are jumping on the chance to lay new cables. They will go through the Arctic. Right now, a ship commissioned by Quintillion Networks, a company based out of Anchorage, Alaska, is beginning to install undersea fiber optic cables. The hope is to lay the foundations for a direct connection between Tokyo and London. This is according to Kevin Baird. He is a reporter for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. It is a newspaper in Alaska.

The rapidly melting ice is worrying to climate scientists for all kinds of reasons. These include 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. Much of the developed world has long had easy access to high-speed broadband Internet. But many people in small Arctic communities in Alaska and Canada still have to do with satellite connections. These are slow and expensive.
 
"There are enormous possibilities for local businesses and individuals who want to stay in their village and make a living," said Tara Sweeney to Baird. Sweeney is a spokesperson for the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation. It is a native Alaska company. It represents the interests of Inupiat communities. They reside in the Arctic Slope region.
 
When the first stages of Quintillion's plan are finished, people in remote Alaskan communities will have access to services like online classes and medical data. They also will be able to do things that most people take for granted. Those include 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 (27)
  • quinn-rya
    8/14/2016 - 10:33 p.m.

    If they put all the cables on the surface, they would get either all tangled or they would get pulled out by a strong current or whirlpool.

    • dbalb134-eva
      9/02/2016 - 10:02 a.m.

      They are put on the bottom of the ocean so things such as boats don't go over them or tangle them.When its on the bottom of the ocean it cant get pulled up by the waves because the bottom of the ocean can be really deep.And they should put the ropes threw a metal or plastic tube so just in case they do get tangled.

  • joeg-orv
    8/23/2016 - 01:16 p.m.

    the cables are put on the ocean floor because if they were put on the surface, weather, waves, current and animals would mess up and brake the lines. The oceans floor is much calmer.

  • ladki552-eva
    9/02/2016 - 09:25 a.m.

    The reasoning of them putting the network in the ocean floor is because of the intense weather and waves and currents other harmful stuff above the floor that could mess up the connection from the lines.

  • kappl318-eva
    9/02/2016 - 09:35 a.m.

    It's so nothing can cut it.

  • nperez708-eva
    9/02/2016 - 09:37 a.m.

    Because the ocean floor has 5 continental step.

  • mnore065-eva
    9/02/2016 - 10:01 a.m.

    If you put on the surface then people will get it and mess up the line and then animals will eat the line and I think weight like a tons so that's why they put it on the ocean floor because it weight a ton.

  • mcarr170-eva
    9/02/2016 - 10:07 a.m.

    Its a good story because the satellite that are in the world that gives the phone international internet.

  • mcarr170-eva
    9/02/2016 - 10:09 a.m.

    They are put in the ocean surface because if they put the cable in in the ocean they rip because the ocean as waves.

  • cglel621-eva
    9/02/2016 - 10:09 a.m.

    It's good to put the cables on the ocean floor because then it would not be dangerous.

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