With the popularity of wireless access points, it’s easy to forget that the internet is anything but invisible. An estimated 300 fiber optic cables run across ocean sea beds to make transcontinental communication possible. Google and five other major Asian telecom companies are set to add yet another six-fiber cable to the network that will connect Japan to the West Coast and run through the major cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon.
Known as “FASTER”, the cable will travel an estimated 5,500 miles and cost investors $300 million dollars to deploy. FASTER can reach speeds of up to 60 terabytes per second and will be ready for use by 2016. Mashable highlights that “According to recent studies, Asia has the largest number of Internet users on the planet” and it’s little wonder why Google would want to invest in more bandwidth.
These fiber optic cables are designed to resist high-water pressure, and you guessed it, shark bites. The cables emit electromagnetic signals that Sharks sense with their voltage sensors and confuse them for food. The cords are quite small ranging from .75 inches to just short of 3 inches. In order for the World Wide Web to remain connected, the fiber optic cables require “steel wires, mylar tape, and a polyethene protective jacket” to withstand the ocean’s extreme conditions. The cables are deployed 8,000 meters below the water surface and requires substantial protection to withstand high water pressure, Earthquakes, ship’s anchors, sharks and even people.
Despite these preventative measures, the cables are still vulnerable. A female treasure hunter from Georgia is said to have “struck a fiber optic cable while digging for copper, cutting off internet access to neighboring Armenia for five hours”.
FASTER will mark Google’s third investment in undersea cables and the involvement brings an interesting divergence to an industry that normally pertains to Telco companies. Now that internet companies are starting to invest in their own infrastructures, it warrants the question if the backward vertical integration will put internet companies head to head with Telco companies. In the case for Google, this has already become a reality with its newest Google fiber service competing with internet service providers.