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Google to spend $1 billion to lay two new cables on the Pacific seabed

The big picture: Undersea cables serve as the backbone of the global digital network. Google, one of the largest Internet-based corporations on the planet, is keenly interested in enhancing the undersea infrastructure that connects continents.

Google has announced a new $1 billion investment to enhance digital connectivity to Japan. This initiative, known as Pacific Connect, involves the development of two new undersea cables in collaboration with various partners. These cables will establish new fiber-optic Internet routes between the US and Japan, aiming to improve reliability and resilience in digital connectivity across the region, which includes the continental US, Japan, and several Pacific Island territories.

The first cable, named Proa after the traditional sailing canoes of the Mariana Islands, will be constructed by NEC Corporation. Proa will link Japan, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and Guam in the Micronesia subregion of the western Pacific Ocean. Additionally, Google plans to extend the existing Taiwan-Philippines-US connection system (TPU) to the CNMI. Together, these cables (Proa and TPU) will establish a new Internet route between the US and the Japanese city of Shima.

NEC will also build Taihei, the second cable in Google’s investment. Named after the Japanese word for both ‘peace’ and the Pacific Ocean, the Taihei cable will connect Japan to the territory of Hawaii. Google also announced the extension of the previously announced Tabua cable to Hawaii. Once completed, the Taihei and Tabua systems will provide a diverse path for Internet connectivity between the US and Takahagi, Japan.

Mountain View is also allocating some of the newly announced funding to create an ‘interlink’ cable between Hawaii, CNMI, and Guam. This interlink will, in turn, connect to transpacific routes, enhancing reliability and reducing latency throughout the Pacific Islands.

According to Arnold I. Palacios, Governor of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Proa undersea cable and Google’s continued interest in the CNMI for its Pacific Connect initiative align with the Commonwealth’s vision for a more connected and technologically advanced Pacific region. Palacios describes it as a “collaborative journey” that will bring new opportunities to the CNMI islands.

Google highlights how undersea cables foster economic opportunities in the countries they connect. The corporation cites a Japan-focused study stating that its network infrastructure investments were significant enough to add $400 million to the country’s GDP. Increased access to digital services can lead to skill development and new career opportunities, Mountain View states, while businesses and public organizations can deliver better overall service to everyone.

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