Facebook and Google’s trans-Pacific cables as a new form of electronic imperialism
For the majority of Western population, a stable internet connection is a fact. However, that is not the case for the non-Western countries. According to a recent BBC article, less than 10% of citizens of South East Asia have a fixed internet connection and more than 73% are fixated on mobile data when being online. Following these statistics, the tech giants Facebook and Google announced that they are planning to develop two undersea cables which would connect South East Asia and North America.
The two new trans-Pacific cables will be called Echo and Bifrost and they will be laid below a new route crossing the Java Sea. The project is based on a partnership between Facebook, Google and Indonesia telecom company XL Axiata – their main aim is to ensure faster internet to Indonesia and Singapore. In other words, the cables will provide an assurance of fixed internet connection to the citizens. A similar project, based on the connection between the US and Hong Kong, was canceled due to the governmental concerns regarding spying. So, to what extent can we believe that this act is based on solidarity? To what extent can we perceive these cables as “a new form of electronic imperialism”?
If you want to learn more about the topic of colonial nature of technology, check out the upcoming event “Tabita Rezaire: An Introduction”: a screening and conversation on the Colonial Nature of Technology with Dr. Edward Akintola “Akin” Hubbard (Utrecht University) and the curators of the exhibition, Laurie Cluitmans and Arjon Dunnewind, that takes place online on April 15. During this event, we will screen two video works by Tabita Rezaire. One of them, Deep Down Tidal (2017, 19 min) deals with the colonial nature of our technological infrastructure. In this video essay, Rezaire explores fiber-optic cables which are hidden below the ocean and which are the essential infrastructure of the internet.
Learn more about the event and buy your ticket here: