Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 503

  Briefing Note THE ARCTIC: A NEW INTERNET HIGHWAY? Michael Delaunay The Arctic Ocean is one of the last oceans of the planet, along with the Southern Ocean, not to be crisscrossed with fiber optical cable, information highways that carry the lion’s share of global communications. These cables are the spinal cord of the Internet and are a critical link with the rest of the world, increasingly so in our global village where instantaneous communication is expected. Today, there are nearly 300 submarine optical fiber cables on the ocean floor which carry, according to Alan Mauldin, research director at Telegeopgraphy, 99% of global communications (CNN, 2014). The remaining communications are via satellite for areas not yet connected to the global cable network. This is notably the case in the Canadian Arctic,1 where transmission is much more expensive and bandwidth much more limited as compared to optical fiber cable. In the coming years, with the melting of the polar ice and thanks to Canadian and Russian projects, Arctic residents may soon be linked to the global network and thus benefit from high-speed Internet connections. This offers great promise to northerners, especially in terms of education, health and economic development. These projects do face challenging weather conditions and require significant investment: cost estimates range from $650 million (USD) to nearly $1.9 bil