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All the humans disappear, except maybe less than ten (unskilled) people.

How long would those few be able to access and use the internet?

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    $\begingroup$ It depends on your definition of the 'internet'. Do you mean just the pathways and interconnections, in which case some segments will last longer than others, or do you mean the 'cloud', as in distributed intelligence? 'Cloud' intelligence (Google, yahoo, IBM, Amazon, cryptocurrency, interac and other financial tools, cloud storage of data) depend on absolutely huge server farms (think mega-warehouses of computers) that depend on uninterrupted power. When the lights go out, the intelligence dies, even if the connections remain live. One hour without cooling power, and the AI brain is fried. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Mar 10 '18 at 17:17
  • $\begingroup$ @JustinThyme even though my question specifies "internet", as in connections, good answers might examine all implications and components $\endgroup$ – theonlygusti Mar 10 '18 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ Randall Munroe dealt with a similar question in What If? -- see the chapter entitled "Last Human Light." $\endgroup$ – Brian McCutchon Mar 10 '18 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ @JustinThyme he means the porn. If it was anything else he would have just said it. $\endgroup$ – RyanfaeScotland Mar 11 '18 at 0:07
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    $\begingroup$ Lmao did Ryanfae make an account here just to send that comment $\endgroup$ – theonlygusti Mar 11 '18 at 11:32
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Not very long at all.

Probably days at best. While I'm not sure about the infrastructure of the internet itself (which I think would probably last a little bit longer before catastrophic failure) the more pressing issue would be power. Without people running the power plants and managing the grids around the world the electricity would soon go out.

No electricity means no computers, so even if the few remaining humans are lucky enough to have a generator or be somewhere the power has lasted longer, most of the internet will have gone offline when the servers died due to lack of power.

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    $\begingroup$ OH lmao I was expecting it to be like an hour, days is pretty cool $\endgroup$ – theonlygusti Mar 10 '18 at 12:11
  • $\begingroup$ @theonlygusti 'at best', I think you'll get an hour or two definitely. I imagine the electric grids have to be robust enough to deal with that amount of down time (plus I imagine a lot of critical places will have some back up which will keep them going for a few hours minimum). $\endgroup$ – adaliabooks Mar 10 '18 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ @theonlygusti - I would be quite shocked if electricity lasted more than a few minutes after all humans disappeared. That's not including that some people will be driving when they disappear and some of those cars are going to crash into electrical poles, etc. $\endgroup$ – Scott Whitlock Mar 10 '18 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ @ScottWhitlock Not true. Most things are automated nowadays. People are need only to check that everything works fine. I would be even more optimistic than days. If all people die in a power plant, the power plant won't stop producing power. $\endgroup$ – Sulthan Mar 10 '18 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Sulthan A nuke will. It will preemptively shutdown to protect itself. And then the grid system operators would have to actively act to keep the grid from collapsing, with "load management" features (like water-heater controllers, but typically with industry). Or else the grid will overload and cause cascade failures. I could see that happening in an hour. $\endgroup$ – Harper Mar 10 '18 at 20:22
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The answer to this is very dependent on geography, both of where those 'unskilled people' are and what part of the Internet they're trying to connect to.

Power: As many people have noted, as soon as the Great Disappearance happens, electricity will start to get spotty. Even if all vehicles avoid causing outages via downed lines, unchecked fires, freezes, storms and etc will start chipping away at the power grid. That said, cities are slightly less vulnerable than rural areas because of better protected, higher-density infrastructure: power is often underground instead of on a pole, and a denser grid means more redundant routes to the power station.

Networking Hardware: The core routers of the internet by now mostly reside in datacenters designed for 24/7 redundant operation. If their power fails - see above about those possibilities, and figure that a datacenter in a major city could indeed have feeds from multiple power substations - they generally keep a day or two's worth of diesel around, as that's considered long enough to get more trucked in in the event of a major outage.

Networking Software: The Internet is designed for redundancy. As long as you can reach a defaultless router (one that contains the core routing tables), you can reach anyone else that can do so similarly. And you'll have plenty of bandwidth to do so, as those that disappeared will no longer be using all the interconnect bandwidth by streaming netflix and youtube (which together are over 50% of downstream network usage). Failure after that will start by breaking the network off into isolated sections (which can still be used to talk among themselves!), until eventually it's all in so many pieces that it effectively no longer exists.

Overall, my estimate would be days (given decent weather) in rural areas and weeks in urban areas.

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Within hours, Lights around the world will begin to shut off. any servers which don't have backup power will go down. Even then, the remaining people won't be able to use the net if they don't have backup or can't help in producing electricity.

Those which have backups might work for a year, after which most satellites will fall back to the Earth. So you can say the max is 1 year, if both the servers, medium and the people survive.

What would happen if humans disappeared

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    $\begingroup$ air friction, but I think some will stay a lot longer then a year. Well that and Gravity ... duh But there is no air in space right ... you say. Well it's not like the air ends and space starts, you have to go some ways to get completely away from the little bit of air that leaks out. $\endgroup$ – ArtisticPhoenix Mar 10 '18 at 12:35
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    $\begingroup$ @theonlygusti, the sats would stay up, but they are not designed to operate independent of ground control for prolonged time. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Mar 10 '18 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ Satellites are not so much manually controlled as they are computer-controlled by earth-based computers. The satellites themselves do not have the intelligence necessary to make the corrections. it is a trade-off between payload and intelligence, power-wise. You either use the resources to transmit (i.e., make money), or you compute. However, that is changing, with 'nets' of dozens, or hundreds, of identical satellites, all linked together, so the intelligence is shared. $\endgroup$ – Justin Thyme Mar 10 '18 at 17:08
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    $\begingroup$ If the sats don't do course correction from time to time, they will soon not be in the location the ground stations expect them to be. That might be a problem. $\endgroup$ – Harper Mar 10 '18 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ Most satellites "falling back to earth" after a year is just completely wrong. Even for some LEO satellites it may take 150 years for their orbit to decay. Higher orbits (where communication satellites typically are) basically don't decay at all; it takes thousands of years for these to "come down". Sure they'll move out of place (for GEO orbits) which is an issue. But they certainly won't come down ... $\endgroup$ – Daniel Jour Mar 11 '18 at 12:38
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If you consider only the backbone, the actual transmission of data, the internet basically becomes IP addresses. As long as there are two computers, and routers between these computers, that is an internet. Think of your home router. How much attention does it need? Sometimes, it needs a reboot. Otherwise, it will keep chugging along until the power goes out. Same with the internet backbone.

Perhaps the biggest job of IT technicians is to reboot recalcitrant routers, and dealing with hackers. Replacing the occasional switch that fries. Adding capacity. Otherwise, they just spend most of their time on customer support, telling THEM to unplug and reboot.

The life of the backbone then becomes an issue of back-up power. Because of the expense, I can not imagine anything with more than a few days of back-up power, more likely hours. Even back-up generators have a finite fuel supply, and need someone to continuously refill them.

But if you have a local system of routers, with batteries and solar back-up, the system should remain live for years, until either the router needs a reboot, or the electronics gives out. Most electronics is good for at least five, more like ten, twenty, even thirty years. Eventually, it is usually heat that destroys it.

Satellites, as we have seen in the Voyager system, can keep on ticking for decades. Their weak point is in keeping the sending Earth-based antennae directional and lubricated. Yet, people have home dishes pointed accurately at geostationary satellites for over a decade. The biggest weak link for these satellites is in the transmission points sending the data in the first place. Consumer dishes are receive only. They will continue to receive, as long as there is something left that is transmitting.

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