Google is currently laying the groundwork to bring fiber optic broadband Internet to most of the U.S., but there’s another company with slightly bigger plans. Arctic Fibre, a Canadian telecommunications company, is working on an undersea, fiber optic cable line that would increase the Internet speeds between the U.K. and Japan.

Internet at Lightning Speeds

Currently, 99 percent of the trans-oceanic Internet data is transmitted along the bottom of the ocean floor. The goal of this project is to expand the reach into the Arctic area that has yet to be connected, while also increasing speeds between continents.

If successful, the fiber optic cable would be the first run along the Northwest Passage. By doing this, the company believes it can cut down transmission speeds for data to 154 milliseconds across the sea. Currently, the fastest rate is 178milliseconds. It might not sound like much, but many companies are so entranced by the idea of cutting transaction speeds, they’ve been happy to invest.

The cost of the project is an estimated $850 million dollars. The cable, which measures 15,600 kilometers, would start in Japan near the capital of Tokyo, span diagonally up toward the top of Canada to cross the Atlantic, and end a few miles outside of London.

Crews will have to depend on sonar to lay the cable along the ocean floor and keep it from tangling beneath the depths. The cable will have tremendous effects on North American communities lacking Internet, particularly in Alaska and Northern Canada.

Connecting the Unconnected

One of the largest benefits of the cable would be what it brings to Arctic communities. The actual route hasn’t been decided, but plans are to have it pass through seven Alaskan communities and 25 in Canada that aren’t currently online or have below-average Internet speeds. This would bring high-speed Internet access to close to 100,000 people in areas that haven’t seen it before.

Artic Fibre will lay the main cable while Alaskan company Quintillion Networks designs spur lines to offshoot from the main cable and send Internet to more communities along the Bering Strait and North Slope.

A Massive Undertaking

Arctic Fibre hopes to get the cable up and running by 2016. The cable itself was built during the winter with plans to begin mapping routes this summer. Quintillion CEO Elizabeth Pierce said the directional drilling needed to bury the spur lines safely underwater will begin this summer, with shore stations for the cable being constructed this coming winter.

The company doesn’t plan to stop with the cable from England to Japan, as they’re planning to build an overland cable from the North Slope into Fairbanks and Anchorage. The idea is to get as many people in North America online as possible.

Alaska, in particular, has also been behind in terms of Internet speeds with many of them topping out at 3 megabits per second. There are still over 20,000 households in the state without access to Internet at all.

If all goes as planned, the fiber optic cable should be in working condition by the end of 2016. It’s one pretty giant step toward bringing high-speed Internet to the entire world, leading to bigger things down the road.

Photo Credit: Oscar Cotez/Flikr