MrSeb writes: "Starting this summer, and thanks to the continuing withdrawal of Arctic sea ice, a convoy of ice breakers and specially-adapted polar ice-rated cable laying ships will begin to lay the first ever trans-Arctic Ocean submarine fiber optic cables. Two of these cables, called Artic Fibre and Arctic Link, will cross the Northwest Passage which runs through the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. A third cable, the Russian Optical Trans-Arctic Submarine Cable System (ROTACS), will skirt the north coast of Scandinavia and Russia. All three cables will connect the United Kingdom to Japan, with a smattering of branches that will provide high-speed internet access to a handful of Arctic Circle communities. The completed cables are estimated to cost between $600 million and $1.5 billion each. As it stands, it takes roughly 230 milliseconds for a packet to go from London to Tokyo; the new cables will reduce this by 30% to 170ms. The latency drop will mainly benefit algorithmic stock market traders, but other areas like education, telemedicine, and POTS will also enjoy the speed-up. Perhaps more importantly, almost every cable that lands in Asia goes through a choke point in the Middle East or the Luzon Strait between the Philippine and South China seas. If a ship were to drag an anchor across the wrong patch of seabed, billions of people could wake up to find themselves either completely disconnected from the internet or surfing with dial-up-like speeds. The three new cables will all come down from the north of Japan, through the relatively-empty Bering Sea — and the Arctic Ocean, where each of the cables will run for more than 5,000 miles, is one of the least-trafficked parts of the world. That said, the cables will still have to be laid hundreds of meters below the surface to avoid the tails of roving icebergs."
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