I apologize because I don't know where else to ask this, even though it is not so much a question about hacking as it is about the internet in general. I'm trying to build a post-apocalypse world where the internet no longer exists, but tablets are still widely used. In my mind, the world ends about 50 years in our future, so internet is completely wireless and landline phones have been completely replaced by cellphones. Does a simple explanation like "we lost contact with satellites" work?
No apologies, Anon, here will do just fine! Not my exact area, but I’ll do my best. And remember, if anyone knows more about this, feel free to add on or correct me (I’m talking to you, ISP people). Alright, let’s get rolling.
The internet, in it’s simplest and honestly accurate terms, is just computers talking to each other. Granted, it’s millions upon millions of them, but boil it down to it’s basics and it’s one computer asking another computer for information. The internet works because as a species we’ve stuck a bunch of computers with ridiculous amounts of information on the same wire and figured out a way to have any one of them talk to any other one.
In the future you describe (~2067), wireless tech has superseded wired in every capacity. This is a possible direction for the world to go, it’s plausible, however I would imagine that there would always be holdouts who refuse to switch completely to wireless. Furthermore, unless some ridiculous breakthrough happens (we’re talking laws of physics or supermaterial, though it’s 50 years, so anything can happen. Really this is up to you as an author), wired will always be more efficient and faster than wireless. Simply by virtue of the fact that it’s easier to make electrons move and dance around if they are confined to a wire and shielded from outside noise than if they are being thrown around through the air.
That said, researchers at the University of Surrey have recently achieved 5G wireless speeds. That’s 1Tb (Terabit) wirelessly, which would allow you do download 10 movies in less than a second. It’s very likely that this would be either the norm or even slightly outdated in your future world.
Remember that this is 50 years in the future, so almost everything I’m about to say can be explained away by 50 years of technological advancement.
Now, to your actual question. If “we lost contact with satellites” then your tablet-wielding survivors wouldn’t be able to access any information from other countries without going there (unless wireless connectivity has stupid range). So that cuts off a good portion of the internet right there. However, with the way the internet works currently, they’d still be able to access a good portion of the internet that was hosted in their home landmass (at least as far as the fiber stretches).
But you want there to be no internet. That’s relatively easy, blow up all the ISPs (Internet Service Providers). No that wasn’t an instruction, put that dynamite away.
The ISP companies are what keep the internet going, keep it easily accessible,
and ruin everything when they buy websites and forbid competitor email addresses from accessing them (looking at you, Verizon). They provide the service of connecting your device to the internet at a speed that you pay for. If the ISPs go down and become unable to sustain their vast infrastructure, the internet becomes more and more inaccessible. Now this depends on how the world ended, but if it doesn’t involve tons of people dying and stuff exploding, then on Day 0 most of the internet would be fine. When the satellites die/become useless because of solar flares or whatever, communication over bodies of water, GPS, long distance communication, and all that is lost. When society breaks down and people stop going to work and the looting starts, ISPs go down, and the internet either starts to deteriorate, or completely vanishes.
After enough time, your internet is gone.
However, a point I should mention, with the wireless communication your world has any community with tablets and someone who can make them talk would be able to have their own internet (technically known as an intranet, thanks mamapluto). It wouldn’t have
Pornhub Tumblr on it, or any of that stuff, but they’d still be able to communicate with any other of their communities devices that were connected to this internet, share files, allow people to see their now jealously guarded kitten videos, etc.
Sarah pulled Joe aside as the foraging party returned sporting massive grins and baskets of produce to match. Gesturing to the small bucket of wild strawberries he carried, they smirked at him. “You did a good job today, if that haul is to be believed. Here, I’ll trade you a code to see that one cat flexing their paws if you give me half of those.“ Waving their tablet under his nose, they brought the e-key onto the screen to taunt him ever so slightly. ”The code should be good for a whole thirty minutes. c’mon, I know you want to.“
I’d make that trade, lookit that lil’ fluff.
Anyway, yes, “we lost contact with satellites” will work for the most part. You may want to include little tidbits about how society’s collapse caused more and more of the internet to go down, as that will help your case.
And I’d love to know how the world ends ;)
Good luck with your writing, I hope I was helpful!