There is no shortage of cool stuff to find on the Internet, but the Internet itself–the networks and servers and cables tying it all together–is pretty mundane. Peter Garritano discovered as much when he went behind the scenes at some of New York’s big Internet hubs to see how everything works.
Garritano always knew the Internet is as much a place as it is a thing, one where vast networks in frigid rooms move enormous amounts of data around the world. But he didn’t have a real understanding of how all that info moves from one place to another, and he wanted to find out. He’s exhausted the last few months doing just that, shooting at five “carrier hotels” where many networks converge to form a single, larger network. That’s why they called it the Internet. It allows an unlimited number of different networks to come together as one.
At air carriers hotel, AT&T’s network can hook up with Verizon’s network. Verizon’s network can connect with Google’s network. And so on. Mostly, it’s a place for connecting big Internet service providers like AT& T and Verizon–the organizations that give the house and business their Internet connections–but increasingly, the companies that run massive applications over the Internet–like Google and Microsoft–are starting to run their own networks as well.
Meanwhile, all sort of other corporations that use the Internet can set up machines inside these facilities. That’s how they get their websites and other software to you and a world of businesses.
Getting into these wired hotels wasn’t easy. Garritano pinged tech writers for leads and spent weeks sending emails and attaining calls to arrange fulfills. Two of the five carrier hotels in New York didn’t want to be named, but the otherthree are run byoutfits likeTelxandZayo. They provide a direct connection to Internet providers and businesses includingTime Warner Cable and Hewlett-Packard. Security is drum-tight, with security guards, security cameras, biometric security checkpoints, and even man traps.
Get past all that, though, and the Internet is pretty boring: miles and miles of cables associating row after row of servers cooled by huge HVAC systems. It’s tough to wrap your headaround the ideathat something so small as a fiber optic cable can move so much data so quickly. “It’s so massive but the individual cables themselves are no the thicker than your phone charger. In that sense, without appreciating the context of the space it is feasible to various kinds of visually anticlimactic, ” Garritano says.
At least one escort accompaniedGarritanoat all times. Sometimes they let him persist as long as he liked, but other hours they whisked him through so quickly he had to shoot from the hip–literally. On those instances where he had plenty of time, Garritano use a medium format cinema camera. He favored a DSLR on those occasions when he kill on the fly.
Garritano suspects he is hardly alone in having never given the Internet much suppose. He took it for granted, but has come to appreciate it. He hopes others do, too. “On a basic degree, I hope this series going to be able to communicate that reality and illustrate the various systems required for the Internet to function, ” he mentions. “That is, the massive amounts of power necessitated, the cooling systems, the enormously complex system of cable linkages, and of course, the people who designing and preserve these systems.”