Facebook Riles Tiny Oregon Town With Plan for Undersea Cable

Tierra del Mar residents are trying to stop Facebook from using property in their community to build a landing spot for an undersea cable.By Andrew Selsky
January 9, 2020

TIERRA DEL MAR, Ore. (AP) — A battle playing out in a tiny Oregon town with no stoplights or cellphone service is pitting residents against one of the world’s biggest tech companies.

Locals in coastal Tierra del Mar are trying to stop Facebook from using property in their quiet community to build a landing spot for an ultra high-speed, undersea cable connecting America with Asia.

Representatives of the social media giant say Tierra del Mar is one of the few places on the U.S. West Coast suitable for the cable, which will feature the latest fiber optic technologies. It will link multiple U.S. locations, including Facebook’s huge data center in the central Oregon town of Prineville, with Japan and the Philippines, and will help meet an increasing demand for internet services worldwide, the company says.

But locals say vibrations from drilling to bring the submarine cable ashore in this village of some 200 houses might damage home foundations and septic systems. They also point out that Tierra del Mar, arrayed along a pristine beach, is zoned residential. If the county and state allow the project, they say, more commercial ventures will come calling.

“This is a huge precedent. Once you open the shores to these companies coming anywhere they want to, Oregon’s coast is pretty much wide open season,” resident Patricia Rogers told county officials in written remarks.

Tierra del Mar, 65 miles (105 kilometers) southwest of Portland, is home to a mix of professionals and retirees who share a love of the unspoiled beach that is fringed with coastal pines and the deer, bald eagles and rare seabirds that inhabit the area. It has two businesses, a rock shop and antiques store, and no cell service, apparently because providers don’t consider it profitable enough.

Facebook representatives told county officials the horizontal directional drilling will last about a month, and all that will remain is a manhole cover. They said they carefully chose the Tierra del Mar site, avoiding areas where fishermen trawl and keeping to places that allow burial of the cable so nets won’t snag on it. They also had to skirt undersea canyons and federally protected fish habitat.

The company declined to provide other details about the project but told The Associated Press in a statement: “With more people using the internet, existing internet infrastructure is struggling to handle all the traffic. These new cable projects help people connect more efficiently.”

The clash comes as internet use by the world’s population has reached 4.1 billion people, or 54% of the global population, up from 1.6 billion people in 2008, according to the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency.

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