Internet Traffic Jam

The Truth About Digital Traffic Jams

Internet Big Picture

By Jayne MillerSep 2, 2016

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If you've ever seen that little buffer symbol on your laptop screen as you wait for a movie to load, you know what digital traffic jams feel like.

While the Internet can seem like a magic, invisible presence that brings news, sports, vacation photos, and cooking shows to our screens, the truth is that it takes a lot of physical pieces to bring it to life. (And to make it feel lightning fast.)

The cables that travel between data centers carry a limited amount of information at any given second; this is what we call bandwidth. And as demand for information skyrockets, bandwidth has to keep up, or it's buffer symbols for everybody.

While the Internet can seem like a magic, invisible presence that brings news, sports, vacation photos, and cooking shows to our screens, the truth is that it takes a lot of physical pieces to bring it to life.

Private companies like Google, Microsoft, and Facebook are stepping up to make sure this doesn't happen by investing in fiber-optic cables that will effectively open more high-speed lanes on the information highway. And these new undersea cables aren't completely selfless - companies like Google are making a fundamental investment in their own business by ensuring customers can reach their content smoothly.

TeleGeography's Erik Kreifeldt spoke to Nature's Noah Baker about bandwidth demand and emerging solutions for a recent podcast.

You can read and listen all about the great bandwidth bottleneck here.

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