Why do Americans think satellites are required for Internet to function?

You may say that not all of them think that, but it must be a common misconception, because I see it all the time in american media: TV shows, stand-ups, comic strips, or movies.

There is even this line in movie Gravity “Half of North America just lost their Facebook.” after satellites got destroyed…

How did this misconception even start? I mean when I’m thinking “international network of computers” I don’t really think about space or satellites, it seems as a barely connected concept to me…

Probably confusing GPS, which is satellite dependent, for “internet.” Also, “satellite TV” was a thing before cable was ubiquitous. People associate the internet with communication, and they also associate communication with satellites. Thus, people believe satellites have something to do with the internet.

Maybe they meant “half” by land area, like all those rural Canadians who can only get satellite internet.

My first answer off the cuff is that it’s a movie trope, when they want to show sooper sekret.gov tech and spy stuff or when the aliens invade thats how they conquer earth or just anything cloak and tech daggerey and somehow that entered into public consciousness as some form of reality

I didn’t even know satellites were a meaningful portion of the internet infrastructure–seems like a weak link with the transmission delay. So another vote for “movie trope” assuming we’re all too stupid to see through lazy writing. Like how anytime someone references REM sleep they do an expository dialogue on the phenomenon they just used the shorthand for.

But really, I’m cool with everyone thinking we’re stupid.

Huh, I’ve never heard of anyone thinking that before. Yea, I would say it is just to sound dramatic.

Yeah, I agree with that. I used to get internet over the landline. And most Americans are familiar with cable and DSL as the most common ways to get online.

I’m aware of how the good ole fashioned internet is structured and built to allow communication even as portions of its relays are disabled, blah blah blah…

…that said, I don’t really know how dependent consumer mobile devices are on satellites and if the gaps between cell towers are covered through hard wiring or with satellite relays or what. So I guess, from a position of ignorance, that knocking out satellites might affect consumer mobile internet coverage which is where a lot of people are accessing the internet these days. Or maybe not. Or maybe everyone can switch to Wi-Fi and use the regular ole wired internet.

Back in the day, international telecommunications was mostly done through satellites. Even international phone calls - I still remember the days when international phone calls had a noticeable time lag. So I think people who grew up in that era (i.e. born in the 1970s or earlier) still associate any global communications with satellites.

When I was young, we would have loved to have experienced satellite delay. We had to light a series of flaming beacons placed along mountaintops. Crazy delay, plus the message was pretty vague when it got through.

Theoretically, I can put two SIMS in my phone and switch from T-Mobile to AT&T, if I wanted to pay for two accounts. However, wifi is no problem for my phone.

Yeah, I don’t think satellites are a requirement for the internet. Maybe they are important for transoceanic coms but I know there are cables.

The younger sibling though, has no idea how the internet works and assumes that it’s in the clouds. What else is in the clouds? Satellites. Not that young’uns care about these sort of things. They sure don’t teach it in school.

ETA: Vox, citing NEC, tells me 99.9% of international internet data goes over submarine cable.



“Grandma calls for aid”? What does that mean?

“Rohan is busy. Please try again later.”

“The torch mountain you have dialed does not exist. Please consult your Palantir and dial again”

I’ve met a lot of people who think cell phones work via satellite, which may account for some of it.

“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”

Yep, that. Some people have no idea what a cell tower is for.

Just finished reading Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet by Andrew Blum, which was written in 2012, so it may be somewhat outdated now, but gives a clear picture of the physical aspects of how the Internet works, at least back then. Interesting stuff.

Can I just ask, its this that common of trope? Because I can’t think of any other examples. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Gravity, but I think that line wasn’t meant to be serious.

You had flaming mountaintop beacons? Well, la dee dah! We had to use carrier pigeons!