So the Internet Didn’t Turn Out the Way We Hoped. Now What?


Where do we go from here?

America’s “broadband gap” is shrinking but stubborn.





Deployment of broadband internet — download speeds of 100 megabits per second or faster — has made some progress in recent years, but rural areas still lag behind urban ones. In 2016, one-third of rural Americans could access speeds that fast. As of 2018, 40 percent of rural America still lacks broadband, according to data from the Federal Communications Commission. The shaded areas in this map show places where at least half the population has access to broadband. — Katie Peek

For now, “5G” doesn’t mean much.





The fastest cellular network — beefy enough to stream movies from a bus stop — has taken hold in just a handful of countries worldwide, thanks to hardware struggles in many cities. The networks all call themselves 5G, but different carriers use different technologies, resulting in vastly different speeds. ‘‘The whole industry is kind of building the plane in midair,’’ says Adriane Blum, a spokeswoman for Ookla, a firm that monitors mobile and broadband speeds worldwide. In this graphic, each continent’s circle represents the number of cities and towns with 5G networks that are currently online or nearly so. — Katie Peek

Billions of people are using apps you may have never heard of.





The first generation of Chinese tech giants, known as BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent), were founded during the desktop internet era. The mobile internet has given rise to a new triumvirate, TMD (Toutiao, Meituan/Dianping and Didi Chuxing) that, along with other mobile-based companies, have revolutionized every aspect of Chinese life. Many have even grown, octopuslike, to encompass several sectors at once. In this graphic, some of China’s top apps are arrayed according to the functions they serve. — Yiren Lu

State-sponsored disinformation is on the rise.





According to the Oxford Internet Institute, the number of countries with political disinformation campaigns nearly doubled to 70 in the last two years or so. Facebook remains the preferred platform for pushing propaganda; organized information operations were found on the social network in 56 countries. Perhaps most terrifying, it has been reported that disinformation tactics are spreading around the world as countries learn from one another. The countries shaded on this map were found by Oxford to have either a permanent disinformation operation integrated into the government, temporary campaigns flaring up around elections or both. — Davey Alba

Big Tech’s physical footprint is monstrous.





Hyperscale data centers (each at least 100,000 square feet in size) run the internet, and they’re growing like gangbusters, both in number and size. A year ago, there were 449 hyperscale centers in the world; today there are 504, with the biggest topping out at millions of square feet. A conservative estimate for their total footprint is 125 million square feet, roughly the size of 2,170 football fields. One square yard of one of those “football fields” holds 1 petabyte of data: 250,000 DVDs worth. This chart shows the countries where hyperscale data centers are concentrated. — Martha Harbison

Photo illustrations and video by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari. Maurizio Cattelan is an Italian artist whose work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including at the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. Pierpaolo Ferrari is an Italian photographer and, along with Cattelan, is a founder of the magazine Toiletpaper, known for its surreal and humorous imagery. They want you to know that no animals were harmed in the making of these images — only humans.

Additional design and development by Jacky Myint.

Source: So the Internet Didn’t Turn Out the Way We Hoped. Now What?

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