Facebook flexes fiber muscle, preps wholesale subsidiary provider

With more than 2.7 billion users around the globe, the sun seemingly never sets on Facebook's network builds. To wit: Facebook is building two new long-haul fiber-optic routes to provide direct connectivity between its data centers in Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina.

The new fiber routes will provide additional resiliency and scale for Facebook, according to a blog post by Kevin Salvadori, director for network investments at Facebook.

Thinking out of the Facebook box, the new fiber builds are good news for local, regional and other third-party service providers and the communities that they serve. Facebook will allow those service providers to buy excess capacity on its fiber routes. Communities along those routes will have more middle-mile networks to connect to while reaching areas that previously had limited, or no, broadband access.

"This capacity could provide additional network infrastructure to existing and emerging providers, helping them extend service to many parts of the country, and particularly in underserved rural areas near our long-haul fiber builds," said Salvadori in a blog post. "Unlike a retail telecommunications provider, we will not be providing services directly to consumers. Our goal is to support the operators that provide such services to consumers. We will reserve a portion for our own use and make the excess available to others."

RELATED: Vodafone takes Facebook's TIP for a test lap

Facebook plans to sell that excess capacity through a new subsidiary called Middle Mile Infrastructure, which will operate as a wholesale provider, or, where necessary, as a telecommunications carrier. According to a story yesterday by West Virginia-based newspaper The Register-Herald, through Middle Mile Infrastructure, Facebook will start the fiber project this year and it will take roughly 18 to 24 months.

"This work is a continuation of our efforts to develop our network infrastructure," Salvadori said. "That work began about a decade ago, when a small team of engineers designed and built one of the world’s most energy-efficient data centers from the ground up: software, servers, racks, power supplies, and cooling systems.

"When we began building our newest operational data center in New Mexico, we built a 200-mile cable to connect that facility to the one in Texas. This underground cable is now one of the highest-capacity systems in the United States, with state-of-the-art optical fiber. The resulting cable is more efficient than other high-capacity cables, and our New Mexico data center now has another redundant path to our network."