Facebook fiber route includes city – Mount Airy News



A crew member works along Rockford Street (U.S. 601) near Surrey Bank and Trust in Mount Airy in the past week, as part of a utility project that has intensified in recent days.


A crew member works along Rockford Street (U.S. 601) near Surrey Bank and Trust in Mount Airy in the past week, as part of a utility project that has intensified in recent days. –

Utility work now occurring along U.S. 601 in Mount Airy (Rockford Street) is not related to an upcoming construction project by the state highway department, but one involving Facebook instead.

The social media and technology giant is in the process of connecting its data centers located in various states through the installation of two long-haul fiber routes, an effort that has spread to Mount Airy in recent days, sources say.

It’s been accompanied by crews placing small flags along the western side of the Rockford Street business corridor, then doing what appears to be excavation at locations near Advance Auto Parts, Simmons Nissan, Cracker Barrel and elsewhere on that stretch.

Some observers have assumed that this is a preliminary step for the state’s “superstreet” project planned for U.S. 601 from the U.S. 52 intersection to Forrest Drive near Walmart, which is not the case.

“It (the utility work) has nothing to do with the North Carolina Department of Transportation,” DOT spokesman David Uchiyama said Thursday of its plans for the superstreet effort.

While it’s looming on the horizon and eventually will require utility relocation along U.S. 601 — where a raised median and U-turn concept will be introduced — Uchiyama confirmed that the activities now under way involve a broadband Internet line coming through.

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Facebook representatives could not be reached for information about the project. But local government and communications industry insiders shed light Friday on the work occurring in Mount Airy, which was undertaken by a company called Appalachian Utilities.

“Facebook is who they’re doing it for,” an engineer at one communications business consulted said of that contractor, speaking on condition of anonymity. He said it is part of a massive effort by the social media company to connect its data centers through the fiber routes’ construction between Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina.

Among Facebook’s data centers is one located in Forest City on the southwestern end of the Tar Heel State.

Officials in the Mount Airy Planning and Public Works departments had no knowledge of the Facebook-related effort, and President Todd Tucker of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership could offer only scant details.

“To be honest I know very little,” Tucker stated, other than being told it was part of Facebook’s broadband expansion, for which he could supply no firsthand facts.

Ambitious Facebook plans

Numerous media reports have surfaced in other areas about Facebook’s fiber infrastructure expansion, reflecting an objective by the company to ensure there’s enough network capacity to push all the data traffic now flowing among its centers.

The fiber expansion also is providing more than one route for Facebook’s traffic so network outages can be circumvented.

Facebook’s infrastructure investment further is presenting a potential new revenue source involving the marketing of network bandwidth, it has been reported. The company plans to sell excess bandwidth along the two long-haul fiber routes between data centers in the multi-state region involved.

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One media outlet noted that Middle Mile Infrastructure, a new Facebook subsidiary, will sell wholesale bandwidth to carriers that want to connect various communities to the social media company’s new routes.

This is expected to be a big plus for rural areas in their paths where Internet connectivity has been an issue, due to allowing individual providers to buy bandwidth from Facebook in order to link more people to the Internet.

West Virginia has been cited as a major beneficiary of this plan due to the fiber route laying a foundation for expanding broadband access in that state. It has one of the lowest rates of broadband coverage in the nation and one of the slowest average connection speeds.

The term broadband typically refers to high-speed Internet access that is always on and faster than the traditional dial-up method.

A crew member works along Rockford Street (U.S. 601) near Surrey Bank and Trust in Mount Airy in the past week, as part of a utility project that has intensified in recent days.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.



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