Which brings us to a mirror version of the question posed at the beginning: how many phone calls would it take to strengthen the internet? In the case of Bahrain, a tiny island monarchy in the Persian Gulf, it took several decades. "For many years they had a single telephone company largely owned by the government," says Cowie. "But they wanted to become the financial centre of the Gulf, so they started a 30-year plan to open up the ISP market and bring in as many competitors as they could."
Today, Cowie says, Bahrain has "about 10 providers that can all connect to international ISPs." That's not anywhere as resilient as the United States or United Kingdom, but it is enough to put Bahrain at "low risk" of internet disconnection alongside India, China, Mexico and New Zealand.
In Africa, where much of the continent is at severe risk of disconnection, similar network robustness could develop even faster. "Africa is the fastest-growing continent in terms of internet presence: more autonomous systems are joining every year, and countries that once only had satellite connections [to the global internet] are investing in fibre-optic cables," says Cowie.
In another 30 years, will a world map of internet resilience show every country at low risk? That's about as likely as world peace breaking out. But knowing how many phone calls it would take to kill the web – and where – can at least help point out where this "network of networks" still needs more shoring up.