What would happen if the internet went down? © Getty Images

What would happen if the internet went down?

We know the pain of losing connection for a few hours – but what about days?

It’s perhaps not an entirely unfeasible scenario to think it could happen. A time when you can’t get back online not just for a few hours, but for days. Taking down something that for many seems as essential as water. Not just for the average person going about their day, but the businesses, industries and infrastructures that rely so heavily on the internet being accessible at any given time, night or day.

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The ramifications of the internet going down for an extended period of time would hit the economy hard, tear into the operation of transport systems and take down businesses.

Riots would surely ensue if there was a big internet blackout, but what would actually actually happen if it happened or was possible? What is in place to make sure this scenario never takes place?

How is the internet linked up?

To get to grips with the idea of the internet being yanked down, it’s important to understand exactly how that internet is delivered around the world. The answer is that there’s a combination of things that make it possible.

There’s satellites and servers and thousands of miles of cabling on the ocean floor firing data across the globe feeding into networks to bring that connectivity to life to let you stream a show or quickly Google something.

What could stop the internet from working?

A host of things could potentially impact the internet grinding to a halt. Communication satellites that are relied on to deliver high data speeds could become damaged. Similarly, cabling sitting on the ocean floor that’s built to withstand sea carnage could get snagged somewhere down the line.

It’s not just the threat from above and below either. Cyber attacks and hacks that seek to take down what is at the heart of the network providing the internet or major internet services will continue to be a concern for all those involved in keeping the internet up and running.

The role of servers that deliver key online services for most around the world are important to talk about there too. If key servers attached to services used around the world were switched off, compromised or accidentally reconfigured somehow, then that could be bad news for a whole lot of people.

There’s also the role of some governments and having the power to essentially switch off the internet, restricting the services to particular areas to prevent access.

What is in place to stop the internet from going down?

The key thing to remember here is that the internet isn’t coming from just one single source, so this isn’t just a case that someone can just switch off or unplug the entire internet. It’s likely that so many points in the system would have to be hit at such a catastrophic level for the worst case scenario to emerge.

It’s something that’s designed to look for alternative routes and channels to deliver that data successfully where it needs to reach when one is blocked. There are instances that can cause a break in the chain to take things down or vulnerabilities in the global internet infrastructure are exposed. This is why those who play a crucial part in the delivery of the internet around the world and crucial systems are closely monitored to address issues that could take down the internet.

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Ultimately, while the demands on the internet have grown in such a staggering fashion since its formation, the nature of its design means while it’s not free from breaking, they are eyes on it always to make sure it remains up and running.