The internet can seem vast and intangible but there’s a very physical system of cables, servers and exchange points across the globe (and yes, even under the oceans). In this episode, we find out how a video shows up nearly instantly on our screens and about insanely thin, clear glass tubes are the key to our digital communication.

• Explore a cool interactive map of the cables that crisscross the globe under the ocean made by Nicole Starosielski.

• See a map of all the submarine cables here.

Fiber optic cable
ERDF (Electricity Network Distribution France) and Louis Dreyfus company install an electric submarine cable and optical fiber between Quiberon and Belle-Ile-en-mer, western France, on March 11, 2015. The underwatered power line of 15km is installed by ERDF to connect the Brittany island of Belle-Ile-en-mer inhabited by 5000 people.

Cable Laying
Workers laying submarine telegraph cable between England and France.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Watch: Journalist Andrew Blum talks about the physical infrastructure of the internet:

This episode was first published on Dec. 20, 2016. You can listen to that version here:

How does the internet get to us?
by MPR