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Facebook Angers Small Oregon Town with Plan for Undersea Cable


People in a small town with no stoplights or mobile phone service are trying to keep out one of the world’s largest technology companies.

The battle is taking place in the town of Tierra del Mar in American state of Oregon.

Locals there are trying to stop Facebook from developing property in their quiet coastal community. The company wants to build a landing site for an undersea cable connecting the United States with Asia.

The oceanfront lot bought by Facebook for the site of its proposed landing spot for a submarine fiberoptic cable that would connect America with Asia is seen in Tierra del Mar, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020.
The oceanfront lot bought by Facebook for the site of its proposed landing spot for a submarine fiberoptic cable that would connect America with Asia is seen in Tierra del Mar, Ore., Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020.

The cable will link many U.S. sites with Japan and the Philippines. The connection also will help meet an increasing demand for internet services worldwide, the company says.

Facebook officials say Tierra del Mar is one of the few places on the U.S. West Coast with the right qualities for the high-speed cable.

But locals say underground movements from drilling to bring the cable to this coastal village might damage homes and waste systems. They also note that maps and government records identify Tierra del Mar as a residential area. If state and local officials permit the project, they say, more development will come.

“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,” said Patricia Rogers, who lives in Tierra del Mar. She made the comments to county officials in a written statement.

The Tillamook County Board of Commissioners voted in support of the project after considering Rogers' and others' statements on Thursday.

Locals plan to appeal the ruling to Oregon state officials.

Tierra del Mar is home to a mix of working professionals and retirees. Locals share a love for the town’s quiet coastline and for the deer, bald eagles and rare seabirds that call the area home.

The town has only two businesses. It has no mobile phone service. Providers seemingly do not consider it profitable enough to offer service there.

Locals worry the Facebook project will bring cell phone towers and additional cable sites.

Facebook representatives told county officials that the drilling project would last about a month. They said they carefully chose the Tierra del Mar site to avoid areas where fishermen use huge nets to catch fish. They also noted they went around federally protected fish habitats.

The company did not offer additional details about the project. But it 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.”

Internet use worldwide has reached 4.1 billion people, or 54 percent of the world's population. That is up from 1.6 billion people in 2008. Those numbers come from the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency.

Almost all of that messaging and internet use goes through fiber optic cables instead of satellites, said Kristian Nielsen. She is vice president of Submarine Telecoms Forum, a Virginia-based trade magazine.

When data -- including phone calls -- go between North America and other continents, undersea fiber optic cables are used 99 percent of the time, Nielsen said.

Undersea cables have around 800 landing points around the world, the Submarine Telecoms Forum reports. Opposition to them, Nielsen said, is rare.

I’m Ashley Thompson.

The Associated Press reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

cable - n. a group of wires, glass fibers, etc., covered in plastic or rubber and used to carry electricity or electrical signals

drill - v. to make a hole in something with a drill

residential - adj. containing mostly homes instead of stores, businesses, etc.

habitat - n. the place or type of place where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives or grows

infrastructure - n. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly

efficiently - adv. capable of producing desired results without wasting materials, time, or energy

fiber optic - n. the use of thin threads of glass or plastic to carry very large amounts of information in the form of light signals