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Google makes decades-long commitment to Bermuda

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Fiona Beck, Google adviser and former CEO of Southern Cross Cable Network and former BDA director

The Google undersea cable coming to Bermuda is a significant project that will bring with it many spin-offs in terms of jobs and other economic benefits, according to an adviser to the US company.

“This is not just about Google landing a cable. Google is making a 25 to 40-year commitment to Bermuda,” said Fiona Beck.

In the project, Google will be laying a cable between Portugal and the United States via Bermuda.

Nuvem cable

It will be the first direct connection between the island and continental Europe and will be the first cable from Bermuda to land in South Carolina, an emerging tech centre in the US.

The cable is called Nuvem — which means “cloud” in Portuguese — and is set for completion in 2026, ending a decade-plus drought in new capacity landing on the island.

Ms Beck, who was chief executive of Southern Cross Cable Network for 13 years and a Bermuda Business Development Agency director for seven, said that the Google landing station would be a significant structure, creating jobs related to construction, operations and maintenance; and a sustainable site in terms of energy.

Significantly, the landing station will be “open”, meaning that it will allow for additional connections, either by Google or any other company, to link to or through Bermuda.

“The cable landing station is not designed for one cable. It is designed for the second, third, fourth or fifth station. It will be large landing station. Jobs will be created,” Ms Beck added.

The exact location of the landing station and the size of the cable in terms of bandwidth have not been disclosed.

Nuven could be incorporated in Bermuda. The island is already a jurisdiction of choice for major undersea cable networks globally.

The project has been in the works for years, with the passing of the Submarine Communications Act 2020 and the BDA promoting the island heavily as a telecommunications hub in the Atlantic.

“This resonated with Google,” Ms Beck said.

She argues that a hub can help in the management of data and the maintenance of data sovereignty, because various jurisdictions have their own laws covering traffic and content. In the Pacific, at least two major hubs are in operation: Guam and Hawaii.

They also help in terms of security and reliance because most cables between North America follow a northern route.

Ms Beck noted that the project would be fully funded by Google.

The local internet market may not be an immediate beneficiary of the great increase in bandwidth.

Google will not be a local internet service provider, so pricing will remain up to the existing players in Bermuda. Ms Beck added that existing bandwidth was sufficient for the island’s needs.

“Current cables have plenty of capacity. It’s just a question of age and direction. Some cables are ageing,” she said.

According to TeleGeography’s submarine cable map, Bermuda is served by five cables: GlobeNet, which lands in Tuckertown, New Jersey; GlobeNet going south to Brazil; the Caribbean-Bermuda US cable, which lands in Tortola, British Virgin Islands; Gemini Bermuda, which lands in Manasquan, New Jersey; and Challenger Bermuda-1, which lands in Charlestown, Rhode Island.

The most recent cabling was in 2009, when the link to the BVI was established, according to TeleGeography. Bermuda has largely missed out on a massive undersea cable boom that took off as bandwidth demand increased dramatically with the rise of streaming and other resource-intensive internet services.

In a statement, BDA chief executive David Hart welcomed the Google announcement.

“Bermuda looks forward to working with Google on its cable project,” Walter Roban, the Deputy Premier and Minister of Home Affairs, was quoted as saying in a Google blog post about the project.

Like Amazon and Facebook, Google has been building out undersea cable capacity globally. It has connections across the Atlantic and the Pacific, as well as cables extending down to Australia and South America.

Firmina, which connects South Carolina to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, is under construction by Google and set for completion this year.

A transatlantic cable went via Bermuda from 1989 to 2004, running from New Jersey to Ireland, but it was switched off because it was no longer considered commercially viable. The first undersea telecommunications cable to Bermuda was completed in 1890 and ran to Halifax.

Monday’s announcement comes just at Bermuda is battling with a major cyberattack. Critical systems are still down and the Government is unable to say when its digital infrastructure will be fully restored.

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Published September 26, 2023 at 8:01 am (Updated September 27, 2023 at 8:06 am)

Google makes decades-long commitment to Bermuda

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