Nearly all international data is carried by a mesh of submarine cables connecting virtually every region in the world. Today, the submarine cable network is recognized as vitally important to the global economy and as an enabler of sustainable growth in developing regions. While the initial deployments of the submarine network date back to the mid-19th century, the recent explosion of Internet traffic has driven an exponential proliferation of the total capacity required from this infrastructure. Despite the obvious importance of the submarine cable network (SCN), we lack a clear understanding of its criticality in the global Internet.
While it is generally understood that Internet services rely on the SCN for backend traffic, the common assumption is that most Internet users do not directly depend on it, as popular resources are either locally hosted, or cached, by nearby CDN servers and data centers. However, the recurrence of country-wide disconnections or performance issues as a result of submarine cable cuts casts doubt on this assumption. Another invited post for the APNIC blog.