Arctic ice is melting at alarmingly fast rates, and things don't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. This change could be disastrous for people and animals in the area and beyond, but it also comes with an unexpected consequence: Telecommunications companies now have the opportunity to lay an intercontinental internet cable beneath the Arctic Ocean. Starting next month, the Anchorage, Alaska-based Quintillion Networks will start doing just that, Scientific American reports.
When it's complete, the 9500- to 9700-mile fiber optic cable will cut through the Arctic Circle, connecting Europe to Asia via the shortest possible route. In the past, underwater cables have been required to cross the Atlantic or Pacific to link the two continents. Now rapidly receding polar ice in the summer months has opened a window for ships to venture into the Arctic and bury cables as deep as 13 feet beneath the seabed.
Between June and September, the first 1150 miles of cable will be installed, providing broadband service to many remote Alaskan Arctic communities for the first time. The second step will be a tract connecting Nome, Alaska to Japan, followed by a final length of cable stretching from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to the UK.
The cable's location still poses several threats to the project: Fish trawling, ship anchors, and undersea earthquakes could all potentially lead to breakage.
If everything goes as planned, the finished product is expected to boost transmissions between Asia and Europe to speeds as fast as 30 terabits per second. It could also benefit stock market traders by shaving milliseconds off transactions.
[h/t Scientific American]