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Study Suggests Buried Internet Infrastructure at Risk as Sea Levels Rise

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Seawater inundation (in blue) projected for New York City by 2033.

Researchers are predicting rising sea levels in coastal U.S. regions could submerge buried fiber-optic cable essential for Internet operations within 15 years.

Credit: Paul Barford

A study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) and the University of Oregon found that rising sea levels could submerge buried fiber-optic cable essential for Internet operations in coastal U.S. regions within 15 years.

The investigation suggests more than 4,000 miles of fiber-optic conduit will be inundated by 2033, while more than 1,100 traffic hubs will be surrounded by water.

New York, Miami, and Seattle would suffer the most severe impact, which UW-Madison's Paul Barford predicts will ripple across the Internet and potentially disrupt worldwide communications.

Barford notes the danger of this submersion to the physical Internet is tied to the large coastal population centers, which also tend to overlap the points where transoceanic marine cables that underpin global communication networks connect to land-based networks.

From University of Wisconsin-Madison
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