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Global Subsea Resurgence: Virginia Beach 0 – 4 in 18 Months

By | International, LINX News, News

Subsea Cables have been growing at an astounding rate of 40% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate). Last couple of years have seen a major resurgence in the subsea projects globally. These cables are so crucial to the digital economy, that close to $10 Trillion in transactions takes place each day on these cables globally. There are approximately 448 submarine cables in service globally (as of Sep 2018), representing about 1.2 Million kms of trans-oceanic cable deployed under water around the world. The astronomical growth in demand for capacity on these cables is driven by the growth in – data generation by all of us as users, the appetite for data consumption and ‘digital everything’ phenomena taking place around us.

This resurgence in the subsea industry, has led to the formation of many successful new subsea companies, that we like to refer to as the ‘New Age Subsea Companies’ such as – Aqua Comms, Crosslake Fiber, Deep Blue Cable, Indian Ocean Xchange (IOX), Seaborn Networks, South Atlantic Express (SAEx) to name a few. There are multiple subsea projects underway by these companies in various stages of development spanning the globe and connecting various continents together.

The content providers and over-the-top (OTT) companies have also been investing significantly in the subsea cable systems. The number of cable systems that content providers and OTTs have invested in are – Amazon (3), Facebook (10), Google (14), Microsoft (4). This represents a major paradigm shift in the industry wherein earlier a large number of [international] consortiums (at times 15-20 companies) were formed to fund and implement a subsea cable system. Compare that to the present time, when you have much smaller consortiums (typically 2-3 companies), and at times one single company owning, funding and operating the entire system end-to-end. It costs anywhere from $300-$500M to design and build one subsea cable system. Various complex steps are involved in the lifecycle including – marine survey, desktop study, feasibility analysis, permitting, licensing and various other international legal matters. The lifespan of a subsea cable is ~25 years. Several subsea systems across the Atlantic are nearing their EOL, and this coupled with the exploding demand for capacity together have been the macro driving forces behind the resurgence taking place around us in the subsea industry.

The Virginia Beach Success Story
Virginia Beach has experienced unprecedented success in attracting new subsea fiber cable landings on its shores. In the last ~18-20 months or so the City of Virginia Beach has gone from having 0 subsea cables to 4. These 4 subsea cables are in various stages of development as we speak and will provide a direct and fast connection to different countries and continents of the world. This is a significant development for the state of Virginia, which is the #1 data center market in the world and has ~70% of the world’s Internet traffic passing through the state.

These subsea fiber cables that connect Virginia shoreline to various parts of the world, are extremely crucial to the digital economy and our ever-so-digital lives. By virtue of these cables spanning thousands of kilometers across the Atlantic Ocean, the State of Virginia will have direct, low-latency and high-capacity connectivity to various parts of the world including:

  1. Bilbao, Spain                         MAREA             8 fiber pairs      6600 kms          Operational
  2. Rio De Janeiro, Brazil            BRUSA             6 fiber pairs      4000 kms          Operational
    (with BUs to Puerto Rico, San Juan & Fortaleza, Brazil)
  3. Cape Town, South Africa        SAEx1              6 fiber pairs      13,300 kms       Development
    (with BUs to Fortaleza, Brazil, Ascension, St. Helena)Singapore (from Cape Town)      SAEx2           6 fiber pairs      11,800 kms       Development
    (with BUs to Mtunzini, South Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius, Chennai, India)
  4. French Atlantic Coast, France DUNANT           4 fiber pairs      5000 kms          Development

MAREA is co-owned by Microsoft, Facebook and Telxius, and BRUSA is fully owned by Telxius. These two cables are operational and land at Telxius CLS in Virginia Beach. The SAEx system, comprises of two segments SAEx1 and SAEx2. SAEx1 or South Atlantic Express1 will connect from Virginia Beach to Cape Town, South Africa with Branching Units to Fortaleza, Brazil, Ascension and Saint Helena. SAEx2 or South Asia Express2 will head eastward from Cape Town, South Africa to Singapore with Branching Units to Mtunzini, South Africa, Madagascar, Mauritius and Chennai, India. In essence, SAEx (comprising of SAEx1 and SAEx2) will provide a diverse new route connecting four continents together – North America, South America, Africa and Asia. The system will avoid existing choke points, avoid seismic hazards and ultimately reduce the latency between Asia and Americas and between Asia and Africa.  The fourth system announced in DUNANT, which is owned by Google, and will be connecting to the French Atlantic Coast with a partnership with Orange.

The two operational cables – MAREA and BRUSA, both land at Camp Pendelton, a US military reserve facility in Virginia Beach. The City of Virginia Beach along with the Virginia Beach Development Authority (VBDA) is evaluating a second alternative and diverse landing point for subsea cables at Sandbridge Beach. These cables when fully built and operational, will collectively be interconnecting four continents – North America, South America, Africa and Europe – thereby making Virginia Beach at the Confluence of four Continents. Additionally, there are a few other subsea projects that are under various stages of consideration in the subsea industry to land in Virginia Beach.

The City of Virginia Beach has been proactively and diligently working with the industry to make it easy, cost-effective and faster to bring new subsea cables to the port city also now known as the “Digital Port”. Some key initiatives underway by the City of Virginia Beach include –

  • Reducing the tax rate for data center equipment to $0.40 per $100 of assessed value with a depreciation schedule of 40 percent of original cost for the first three years. The depreciation rate for year four is 30 percent and for year five and forward is 15 percent
  • Streamlining the permitting process for cable landings
  • Pursuing establishment of cable protection zones
  • Identifying alternative landing point at Sandbridge to Corporate Landing
  • Improving city’s conduit infrastructure in Corporate Landing
  • Available Dominion Energy-certified data center sites – Owned by the City of Virginia Beach Development Authority, Corporate Landing Business Park consists of 325 acres of land, of which 160 acres are “shovel ready” and available for development

Summary

The Subsea cables provide the vital backbone of the global Digital Economy. Global Subsea Resurgence will continue for at least the next 3-5 years. Diverse landing points and new business models will continue to take the center stage in this growth driving additional bandwidth capacity under the oceans. The subsea industry will be working more and more closer with the terrestrial fiber industry and the data center industry thus enabling the natural convergence of subsea fiber, terrestrial fiber and data centers.

Vinay Nagpal, President of InterGlobix joined us at LINX102, watch his presentation in full here;

Thanks to our guest authors:

Vinay Nagpal

President, InterGlobix

vinay@interglobix.com

Rob Hudome

Senior Project Development Mgr., City of Virginia Beach

rhudome@vbgov.com

Malaysian penalty for “fake news”: 10 years in jail

By | Content Issues, International, News

The Malaysian government has brought forward a bill in Parliament that sets the penalty for publishing so-called “fake news” online with up to ten years in jail plus a fine of 500,000 MYR (about £90,000), Reuters reports.

Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia

“The proposed Act seeks to safeguard the public against the proliferation of fake news whilst ensuring the right to freedom of speech and expression under the Federal Constitution is respected,” the government said in the bill.

The bill gives a broad definition to fake news, covering  “news, information, data and reports which is or are wholly or partly false”. It seeks to apply the law extra-territorially, to anything published on the Internet provided Malaysia or Malaysians are affected by the article.

“Fake news” has become an increasingly popular target of political attack since Donald Trump popularised the term in his battles with CNN and other major broadcasters. In the UK, a Parliamentary Select Committee recently held their first ever hearings in Washington DC on the subject, summoning social media platforms to be lambasted for failing to suppress allegedly “fake news”. The Prime Minister’s office established a new unit to counter fake news in January.

So far, however, no UK government Minister has suggested jailing people for writing something on the Internet that isn’t right.

Council of Europe publishes guidlelines for Internet intermediaries

By | International, News

The Council of Europe has published a Recommendation to Member States on the roles and responsibilities of Internet intermediaries. The Recommendation declares that access to the Internet is a precondition for the ability effectively to exercise fundamental human rights, and seeks to protect users by calling for greater transparency, fairness and due process when interfering with content. The Recommendation also calls for greater respect for user privacy.

The Recommendations’ key provisions aimed at governments include:

  • Public authorities should only make “requests, demands or other actions
    addressed to internet intermediaries that  interferes with human rights and fundamental freedoms” when prescribed by law. This means they should therefore avoid asking intermediaries to remove content under their terms of service or to make their terms of service more restrictive.
  • Legislation giving powers to public authorities to interfere with Internet content should clearly define the scope of those powers and available discretion, to protect against arbitrary application.
  • When internet intermediaries restrict access to third-party content based on a State order, State  authorities should ensure that effective redress mechanisms are made available and adhere to applicable  procedural safeguards.
  • When intermediaries remove content based on their own terms and conditions of  service, this should not be considered a form of control that makes them liable for the third-party content for  which they provide access. 
  • Member States should consider introducing laws to prevent vexatious lawsuits designed to suppress users free expression, whether by targeting the user or the intermediary. In the US, these are known as “anti-SLAPP laws“.

The Recomendations’ provisions aimed at service providers include:

  • A “plain language” requirement for terms of service.
  • A call to include outside stakeholders in the process of drafting terms of service.
  • Transparency on how restrictions on content are applied, when, and detailed information on how algorithmic and automated means are used.
  • Transparency reporting
  • Effective remedies and complaints mechanisms for users who wish to dispute restriction of their service or content. “all remedies should allow for an impartial and independent  review of the alleged violation [of users’ rights to expression]. These should – depending on the violation in question – result in inquiry, explanation, reply, correction, apology, deletion, reconnection or compensation”.

The Council of Europe is an intergovernmental body entirely separate from the European Union. With 47 member states, it seeks to promote democracy, human rights and the rule of law, including by monitoring adherence to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. Its Recommendations are not legally binding on Member States, but are very influential in the development of national policy and of the policy and law of the European Union.

UK prime minister calls on internet firms to remove extremist content within two hours

By | Content Issues, International, News

The UK prime minister, Theresa May, has told internet companies that they need to go “further and faster” in removing extremist content in a speech to the United Nations general assembly. The prime minister said that terrorist material is still available on the internet for “too long” after being posted and has challenged companies to find a way to remove it within two hours. The material in question can include links to videos glorifying terrorism and material encouraging converts to commit terrorist acts.

In her speech, May said:

“Terrorist groups are aware that links to their propaganda are being removed more quickly, and are placing a greater emphasis on disseminating content at speed in order to stay ahead.

Industry needs to go further and faster in automating the detection and removal of terrorist content online, and developing technological solutions that prevent it being uploaded in the first place.”

The UK, together with France and Italy, is demanding evidence of progress by the time of a meeting of G7 interior ministers in Rome on 20 October.

Internet giants protest over rollback of net neutrality

By | Content Issues, International, News
A large number of internet giants – including Facebook, Google, AirBnB and others – are preparing for a “Day of Protest” on Wednesday 12th July over a ruling by the US communications regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), that will reverse Obama-era net neutrality rules that prevent the prioritisation (or “throttling”) of data.

These were implemented by classifying ISPs as telecommunications operators regulated under Title II of the US Communications Act.Campaigners fear the decision by the communications regulator will lead to a two-tier internet in which ISPs can determine the download speeds of content. Sean Vitka, a lawyer for pro-net neutrality groups Demand Progress and Fight for the Future, said: “If a new company can’t access companies on the same terms as the incumbents they’re not going to have the chance to thrive.But the NCTA, a trade association for network operators argued that Title II regulation is “a complicated set of rules from the 1930s” and “not remotely connected to net neutrality”.

The FCC implemented net neutrality rules under Title II when the courts found that it had exceeded its authority under Title I when imposing a previous ruleset in 2010.

On Wednesday, several internet companies will be voicing their opposition to the move in a variety of ways, from changing their homepage to black, simulate what internet access is like in a world without net neutrality, displaying messages against the move, and more.

Leaked documents according to the Daily Mail and Wikileaks reveal that CIA has hacked Wi-Fi routers

By | International, Malware and DOS attacks, News

Leaked documents from activist group Wikileaks and as reported by the Daily Mail has shown that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has hacked a number of routers and has converted them into devices used to snoop in on people’s conversations. The Daily Mail reports that the hacks have targeted 25 router models from manufacturers such as Linksys, DLink and Belkin. Furthermore, the Daily Mail cites the Wikileaks document as stating that the firmware could be expanded to affect a hundred or more devices if they are given only slight modifications.

The 175-page document was reportedly nicknamed “CherryBlossom” (CB for short) by the intelligence agency. The document described CherryBlossom as stating that: “The Cherry Blossom (CB) system provides a means of monitoring the internet activity of and performing software exploits on targets of interest”.

The firmware apparently works by converting the router into a “FlyTrap” that sends messages also known as “beacons” to CIA-controlled server nicknamed “CherryTree”. The FlyTrap sends information such as the router’s device and security information, which CherryTree logs into a database.

Devices that were protected with a weak or default password were highly susceptible to the firmware, the document from Wikileaks show.

The findings, if true, show the various problems associated with friendly governments taking the view that it is acceptable for intelligence agencies to compromise either security or privacy. The end result can only be the use of such mechanisms by actors with less than noble intentions – ranging from hostile governments to organised criminals to terrorists all the way down to script kiddies. This serves as a useful forewarning on the dangers of requiring ‘backdoors’ on encryption technology, together with the policy ramifications from the Investigatory Powers Act Technical Capability Notices.