Truly How Does the Internet Work and Can It Be Disabled?

If you think about how does the internet work then everything is very simple from the outside: switch on Wi-Fi, open any browser, and go to the site by entering its address. In fact, this is a gigantic network of cables, routers, and servers, working continuously day and night to bring the Internet home.

We are already accustomed to the always-on Internet. Reading a news feed during breakfast, watching the next interview of a little-known rapper in the subway, answering emails at work, and so on. However, the beginning of 2024 already demonstrated that “everything is going as usual” could be very vulnerable. On January 30, a serious problem arose in Runet: for most users, websites were available for only two hours. And at the end of February, the Houthis attacked undersea Internet cables between Asia and Europe.

In many parts of the world, Internet outages occur extremely often. The danger lies in the fact that the Internet is not only an entertainment system for online streaming and social networks, as there are critical infrastructure elements dependent on it like hospitals, banks, payment systems, and emergency services.

By the way, April 4th is Internet Day worldwide. This is why this post is dedicated to spreading the knowledge of the Internet to all.

The Internet is a network of computers connected

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All that we may call the Internet is plenty of computers talking to each other; managing to exchange messages and commands between each other and executing them.

The classical idea was as follows: all the computers connected to the Internet can be divided into two groups: servers and clients. Servers give out information to clients; in our example, it is the computer from the main site [email protected] mail. Client computers in our example: can be consumed with PCs, laptops, smartphones, smart speakers, and watches.

What does the Internet consist of?

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Generally, the internet can be drawn in the form of a tree. There is a trunk; from it, big branches come out, then smaller ones, then thin ones with leaves at the end. Roughly the same is on the internet. The trunk of the big fiber optic cables between countries is the tree, and the branches are the thinner cables, which are interconnections between cities and regions, and the leaves of the tree are the final devices, namely, you and me.

Trunk cables:

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The Internet is based on backbone cables that connect countries and continents. Most of the landlines actually lie under the ground and under the oceans. Of all, most connect the USA and Europe, lying under the Atlantic Ocean. They are around 14,000 kilometers long.

2Africa, the longest backbone cable in the world, was laid in 2022. The cable, 45,000 km long, will go over Europe, Africa, and Asia and is said to provide the Internet for 3 billion people from 33 countries.
The Africa cable is longer than the circumference of the earth, measuring over 40,075 km. Today, over the world, more than 500 submarine cables have been laid, and still, around 70 are at the installation stage.

If you are interested in studying the backbone cable layout, here is a detailed map of it.

It is not uncommon for undersea internet cables to experience interruptions. Here are the main reasons:

  • ship anchors;
  • natural disasters;
  • sabotage;
  • human factor;
  • cable wear;
  • Though, indeed, sharks are attracted by internet cables (scientists have not yet found an explanation for that); they like to eat fish hiding behind cables.

Routers or exchanges:

Truly How does the Internet work

Among the institutions responsible for data exchange between nations, cities, and continents is a traffic exchange point, abbreviated to IXP.

You can think of them as very big rooms in the world—about 300, they are the ones from which backbone Internet cables come out. They are also in charge of effecting the fast transfer of information between computers A and B.

City networks:

Truly How does the Internet work

The Internet spreads through the city and from there into the regions through traffic exchange points. Your provider connects to the nearest exchange, and from the provider, the cables are distributed to areas, and then to homes. The Internet providers are of three levels: first, second, and third.

Tier 1 providers are those who own the sources of the backbone cables between countries and continents. Now, there are about 15 of them. These are telecom giants like AT&T, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, Tata, etc.

The second-level providers are those who conduct peering with other networks and transmit data usually between the borders of the country. For example: Vodafone in Europe, Comcast in the USA, Rostelecom, and MTS in Russia.

Third-tier providers purchase Internet from second-tier providers and deliver it to end users.

Who controls the Internet:

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The Internet has developed in a decentralized manner; it does not have a single point of control.

This is considered one of the most long-lasting human inventions, and every single node of it is backed by hundreds of similar ones all over the planet. Truth be told, there are institutions with the responsibility of regulating the network.

The Internet Architecture Council (IAB) is a board that establishes a variety of protocols and, on top of that, it maintains rightness in the functioning of the Internet.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) carries out the registration of over 330 million domain names (DNS) on the Internet that coordinate with the IP address.

The rules and standards developed by the International Telecommunication Union cover all electronic communications and broadcasting technologies which, by definition, do comprise the Internet.

Is it possible to disable the Internet:

Truly How does the Internet work

The Internet operates in a decentralized manner, but countries periodically make attempts to take control of it.

There is even a term “balkanization” of the internet—it is the formation of many local nets, existing independently of independent ones. Tech analyst Ben Thompson even assumes that due to geopolitical confrontations, there may appear several “Internets”: American, Chinese, European, and Indian. To this add the national internet of North Korea, apart from the isolated Iranian one and the “Great Firewall of China.” Once this pattern was followed and the law “On the sovereign Internet” was adopted in this country, one such in Russia could not help but appear.

The American Internet can develop according to the liberal model and, as Ben Thomson calls it, it can be one of the most working since the driving force for the US economy has always been a free market. However, the downside of this model may be the uncontrolled dominance of big tech. Note: Ben Thompson made his forecasts in the summer of 2020, at the peak of the coronavirus epidemic. Much has since changed in American society. The United States legislators strengthen the policy toward control issues, for example, by trying to prohibit TikTok.

The European Internet began to take shape after the entry into force of the GDPR and the Copyright Directive. In doing so—primarily, in their aim to protect data from the US government—European regulators curtail access to the market not only for small players but, more importantly, create specific regulatory barriers for medium-sized ones. Bigtech are winner yet again.

The Indian model postulates freedom of “digital actions” of American and Chinese companies in India but insists on putting shackles on the physical technologies. High tariffs for electronics and restrictions on foreign direct investment in the local internet sector are bound to ensue. For example, India forbade the use of TikTok, blocked Whatsapp’s efforts to roll out payments, and restricted e-commerce for Amazon and Flipkart. Big Techs win again; only now the local telecom giant, Jio.

Internet is still strong:

Truly How does the Internet work

From a technical point of view, the internet is stable, for example, after the strong earthquake in 2011 in Japan, some major cables were damaged. But despite states trying to limit it, traffic declined only by a few percent. According to HGC, a Hong Kong telecom operator, the submarine cables affected by a Red Sea attack from the Houthis were impacting up to 25% of the traffic between Asia and Europe. Within a few hours, the company had rerouted traffic through other channels—all due to the vast reach of its cable network.

So this is the how does the internet work is all about. If you have any feedback feel free to contact us here.

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