Microsoft and Facebook are to build a 4,000 mile transatlantic cable to give themselves a leg-up on data transfers. It follows a similar move by Google.
The cable will run from Bilbao on the northern coast of Spain to Virginia. Most such cables run via New York, but Facebook is one of several companies with major data centers in Virginia. The idea is also that by avoiding having to run through Northern Europe, the companies can maintain a more reliable onward connection to Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
The 160 terabits per second cable, named MAREA from the Spanish word for tide, is planned to be ready for use by October next year. It’s being built with the help of Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica, which will lease any capacity that Microsoft and Facebook don’t use.
As usual, the move has sparked conspiracy theories. One has it that by building and operating the cable themselves, Microsoft and Facebook hope to reduce the chances of government surveillance and interception. Another is that the two companies will argue that the cable being owned and operated by website and online providers means it shouldn’t be classed as part of “the Internet” and thus it would be exempt from net neutrality regulations.