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The Trans-Arctic Internet Cable Project Made Possible by Climate Change

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Running a telecom cable from London through the Northwest Passage to Tokyo was, for a very long time, impossible: The sea route was solid ice year-round. Now, thanks to rising temperatures, the ice disappears from August to October, and a Canadian telecom startup wants to thread a 10,000-mile internet cable through that gap.

Toronto-based Arctic Fibre will soon start surveying the underwater route that would connect the UK with Japan and several spots in between, diversifying the globe's fiber optic data network without relying on land-based cables going through volatile regions of the Middle East, as current connections do. Similar projects, on a much smaller scale, have recently been completed to connect Russia and Crimea.


As BuzzFeed reports, telecoms and corporations are clamoring for redundant data connections, still wary of the trouble caused in 2008 when disruptions to the Mediterranean Sea cable slowed or stopped communications across Asia. But routes through the Middle East could make tempting targets for disruption.


The Arctic Fibre project would avoid that exact scenario: Aside from its termini in England and Japan, and an anchor point in Canada, the cable would run almost entirely undersea. This, of course, will require elaborate surveying to find a path where the cable won't get snagged by rocks, pulled by tides, or crushed by rock slides.

The $620 million project will also bring internet connections to northern Alaska and regions of Canada where data is often unreliable.

Undersea surveying will begin in the next few months, using side-scan sonar, digital cameras, electromagnetic probes, and core samples to plot a route across the sea floor. In the past, such a surveying trip wouldn't have been feasible due to year-round ice. Doug Cunningam, Arctic Fibre's CEO, didn't mince words when he explained to BuzzFeed why this project is now feasible: "It is made possible by climate change." [Arctic Fibre via BuzzFeed]