Not everyone is connected to the internet – yet. On the remote northwestern coastline of Oregon, the Tillamook County Board of Commissioners overseeing Tierra del Mar community has approved installation of the Jupiter submarine cable. A subsidiary of Facebook Edge Cable Holdings directing the project says the cable will meet demand for Internet services worldwide by connecting between the United States and Asia.
Six companies, including Facebook, Amazon, PLDT, NTT Communications, are investing in the fiber optic cable to go live by summer 2020. TE SubCom will lead construction of the 14,500-kilometer cable with landing stations in Hermosa Beach, California, Shima and Maruyama, Japan, and Daet, Philippines. With a capacity of 60 terabits per second the cable will meet increasing demand for live video, augmented and virtual reality, and 4k/8k video. The cable system will provide the fastest service between Japan and the United States – perhaps in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The Jupiter cable adds to the diversity of Internet connections and high capacity in an evolving digital marketplace. Currently, 4.1 billion people use the Internet around the world. Japan hosts 3.4% of the global internet population with 115 million users; the Philippines with 76 million users led the world in most time spent on the Internet at 10:02 hours per day per user. The United States, under the Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership as a part of the administration’s strategy for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, is advancing Internet and communications technology in Asia. For example, USAID has facilitated nationwide adoption of e-payment services in the Philippines.
However, unincorporated Tierra del Mar has no cell phone service – and only 200 rural households. Residents are concerned the project may disrupt the peace and quiet of their neighborhood. Purchased by Facebook in October 2019, lot 3200 will undergo construction such as drilling below a manhole and seafloor trenching off the coast to lay the Jupiter cable in the Pacific Ocean. Heavy equipment use may cause noise, damage infrastructure, and block roads. Oregon State Parks denied Edge Cable Holdings a permit to provide for future installations of cable.
The construction companies and Oregon Fishermen’s Cable Committee chose the lot for absence of disruptions and access to existing cable infrastructure. The cable would not be impeded by fishing nets, erosion, or wetlands. It would link easily to other cables between nearby Pacific City and Portland, as well as major cities in Washington and California. For example, the Asia Pacific Gateway runs from the west coast of the United States to Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore; the oldest transpacific cable network built in 1999 Pacific Crossing 1 provides services running from Washington and California to Japan.
Providing high-speed Internet, the Jupiter cable can connect people across the globe. But ironically, the global reach of telecommunications has not made it to Tierra del Mar. When asked by a Facebook representative how many people wanted better cell phone service in the area, few people at a community meeting on the cable project raised their hands.
Amanda Mei is a research intern in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. She graduated from Yale University with a bachelor's degree in environmental studies in 2018.