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Suppose mankind never developed spaceflight, which precludes any form of space-based stations or satellites. How could a single global Internet be achievable as we know it today? What technologies would need to be developed/utilized to allow the Internet to be available, reliable, and maintainable across oceans, mountains, and other terrain?

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    $\begingroup$ Everyone knows that the internet is a series of tubes, no satellites involved. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Feb 28 '15 at 2:57
  • $\begingroup$ In a way, that's true, since wires are just cylinders of arbitrary height. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Feb 28 '15 at 3:01
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Submarine communications cable can cross oceans just fine, no space technology necessary. Started in 1853.

Mountains and other terrains is just hassle. Cable is easy to lay and easier to repair - but repairing even sea cable is possible, see link above.

Pipeline is harder but also possible overland, over or around any terrain.

Satellite in geostationary orbit is 50K km away. Round-trip is 100K km. More than twice than distance around the world.

Few cool factoids:

  • 99% of international data is transmitted by submarine cables, which are as thin as Magic marker pen;
  • and are sometimes bitten by sharks, and routinely tapped (in international waters) by spy agencies.
  • undersea cables (technology older than telephone) are faster and cheaper than satellites.
  • easiest way to wage cyber warfare is in scuba gear using wire cutters.
  • almost 10% of cables are "spare" - laid but not used.
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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. I hadn't realized the submarine cables were still in use. I assumed they were replaced by satellite technology. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Feb 28 '15 at 3:03
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    $\begingroup$ Why would they? They prowide superior bandwidth. $\endgroup$ – Peter M. Feb 28 '15 at 3:18
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    $\begingroup$ Not only that, but they provide much lower latency and are not affected by weather. The only common uses of satellites for data transmission are satellite TV and radio, and communication in remote areas. $\endgroup$ – 2012rcampion Feb 28 '15 at 3:20
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    $\begingroup$ Yup, in my day job I get daily emails about degraded service of Inmarsat and others. :-) $\endgroup$ – Peter M. Feb 28 '15 at 3:25

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