Internet Infrastructure: What Do I Need to Know?

girl typing on a computer

Few things in human history have brought people together in the way the Internet has. Nobody owns the Internet. It’s a vast collection of countless networks, coming together from all over the world. Today, tens of millions of host computer systems support the Internet—a far cry from the four host computers that first gave rise to the Internet in 1969. But as technologically advanced as the World Wide Web is today, parts of its infrastructure are still surprisingly primitive. When you graduate with a degree in Information Technology from Grand Canyon University, you’ll have the skills and knowledge you need to effectively navigate computer platforms and systems.

The Internet’s Infrastructure Is Still Dependent on Underwater Cables

They didn’t know it then, but the people who laid the first transatlantic cable way back in 1858 were setting the groundwork for the Internet’s infrastructure that would emerge more than 100 years later. At the time, it must have seemed like magic to transmit a message to Europe from North America in a matter of minutes, rather than days. We’ve come a long way since then, but we still rely on more than 300 underwater cables that extend over 550,000 miles to transmit about 97% of all intercontinental data, according to Business Insider. The longest such cable is 24,000 miles long.

The Underwater Cables Require Continuous Maintenance

There are different cables in use to transmit Internet data across continents. Some of them are about as thick as a garden hose. Others are three inches thick. But all of them consist of delicate fiber optic wires at the core, protected by multiple layers of water-resistant materials. It takes a few months to lay one cable, but the work doesn’t end there. Each inch of each cable is susceptible to damage from everything from corrosion and natural disasters to shark bites and even fishermen. In just the Atlantic, about 50 break and are repaired every year. Special ships bring up the damaged section of cable for repairs. In some shallower areas, the ocean floor is accessible to divers. They can conduct certain repairs underwater, like removing and replacing corroded zinc anodes.

The Internet Relies on Cables Under Dry Land Too

When a cable hits a continent, it travels under dry land. It first passes through cable landing points, where it then extends to data centers. There are more than 500 of these cables in the U.S., most of them traveling alongside railways and highways. Workers prefer to locate them near gas lines whenever possible, since there is always a risk of damage to the cables from construction excavations.

Major Data Centers Are Located in Surprising Places

When a cable reaches a data center, it connects to the machine servers. These data centers are typically housed within unmarked and unremarkable buildings—places you wouldn’t give a second glance if you drove past. In many regions, data centers are in remote areas far away from cities, but there are also major data hubs in cities like New York and Los Angeles. If these data centers were to suffer a crippling event, like an act of sabotage, it would cause substantially disruptive ripple effects through many aspects of modern life—which is why they’re housed in unmarked buildings and protected by more security than you’d find at an airport.

The College of Science, Engineering, and Technology offers academically rigorous degree programs within a supportive, Christian learning community. Look for the Request More Information button. Grand Canyon University invites you to consider the possibilities with a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree from a prestigious private school.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.