Google Fiber Jumping Sharks

At least Google showed a sense of humor as well as a science lesson regarding a shark attack on its fiber optic cable.  And, of course, it was just a coincidence that a video of a shark chomping on Google's cable surfaced during Discovery Channel's Shark Week and on the heels of the highly hyped "Sharknado 2" movie debut on SyFy channel. (The made-for-TV movie has a one-night stand in movie theaters on Thursday, August 21.

Google described the Pacific shark attack during an update last week about its $300 million undersea fiber optical cable system called FASTER, which is being built to deliver high-speed broadband signals to Asia.  Google has also invested in two other submarine cable systems to connect with Japan and southeast Asia.

Google had some fun with the shark-on-cable action.  It Tweeted a message that, "We *did* see that coming.... Next step, protecting the Internet from sharknados. #SharkWeek."  It said nothing about the video, which suggested that the shark didn't like the taste of Google.

As part of a technical update, Google officials described wrapping the underwater fiber optic cables in bullet-proof Kevlar fabric to stave off shark bites. There are conflicting analyses about why sharks are drawn to the FO cables.  Some experts believe that the electrical current in the lines attracts the sharks, which have volt sensors in their mouths. The digital signals may make the sharks think cables are food. Others say, the curious sharks nose around any item they encounter.

Reports about the shark-munching incident generated several thoughts.  First: who knew that Google was so deeply invested in undersea cables, which were once the province of big telecommunications carriers such as AT&T and the international arms of the telecom monopolies? Next: How will Google's experience in fending off attacks on its submarine lines translate into defensive measures as it strings fiber around American cities?

And most important:  how will cable and telco competitors call in sharknados to take a bite out of Google's domestic fiber.

Gary Arlen

Contributor Gary Arlen is known for his insights into the convergence of media, telecom, content and technology. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the longtime “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports. He writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs. Gary has taught media-focused courses on the adjunct faculties at George Mason University and American University and has guest-lectured at MIT, Harvard, UCLA, University of Southern California and Northwestern University and at countless media, marketing and technology industry events. As President of Arlen Communications LLC, he has provided analyses about the development of applications and services for entertainment, marketing and e-commerce.