It’s easy to forget about the submarine cables that lie beneath our oceans, but without them, the world would come to a standstill. The cables that connect six of the Earth’s continents are vitally important, accounting for more than 95 percent of phone calls, internet service, and data traffic between the United States and the outside world, as well as a huge amount of money.
“They are responsible for $10 trillion worth of transactional value every day,” Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said during a monthly Federal Communications Commission meeting today. “That is more than triple what the United States spends on health care annually. It is greater than the combined domestic product of Japan, Germany, and Australia. It is a big deal.”
Last summer, on July 8, 2015, a typhoon ripped through the Pacific Ocean and damaged one of these submarine cables. According to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, for months, it left tens of thousands of U.S. citizens in Pacific islands unable to use a credit card, withdraw money from an ATM, or make a phone call even to 911. Today, the FCC decided that the security and maintenance of the underwater cables had been ignored long enough, and enacted a new rule it hopes will help prevent disasters like the July 2015 outage.