More than 5,700 kilometres of the Atlantic Ocean separate the coastlines of France and Virginia. But in 2020 they will be directly connected for the first time by the Dunant submarine cable which will boost internet capacity between Europe and the east coast of the US.
When Dunant becomes operational it will join more than 428 submarine cables, spanning thousands of kilometres, that makeup the backbone of the internet. But this cable is unlike any other.
Named after the Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross and winner of the first Nobel Peace Prize, the cable is owned by Google. It's the first transatlantic submarine cable that has been privately financed and deployed by one of the big tech firms.
"The issue often for the content providers – Google and Facebook – is they currently cannot source enough capacity from the existing cables for themselves," says Alan Mauldin, research director at TeleGeography, a telecoms data firm that tracks and maps subsea cables. "So they need to build to get that much access themselves.
The result is more of the internet's physical infrastructure is owned by the companies that have the biggest presence online.
Dunant may be the first subsea cables owned by one of the big tech firms to cross the Atlantic Ocean but it isn't the company's first private cable. In January 2016, Google also announced the Curie cable that would run from Chile to Los Angeles. In recent years, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook have all invested in submarine cables to keep pace with increasing demand.
Previously, big technology firms spent millions on cables as parts of consortiums. In return for their investment, each company gets a say in its route and, crucially, a share of its capacity. But big tech doesn't like to share.
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