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Sea Change

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Sea Change

Google and Meta’s new subsea cables mark a tectonic shift in how the internet works, and who controls it.

Rest of World,

5 min read
3 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

The hand that builds the infrastructure rules the world…

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When you increase the speed of the internet, all kinds of new initiatives become possible, and Africa has been living with subpar internet conditions for a long time. So when wealthy US-based tech companies offer to provide faster internet speeds through undersea fiber-optic cables, leaders of African nations can’t really turn them down. But how will these cables be connected, what will it mean for the average citizen and how will infrastructure from US companies influence Africa’s future? Andrew Blum and Carey Baraka describe Africa’s journey to a more connected future in this Rest of World article.


Google and Meta want to bring better internet access to Africa, a move that will likely add billions of dollars and millions of jobs to the continent.

Google once had a plan to connect Africa to the internet by bouncing signals off devices suspended in the stratosphere by giant balloons. Google abandoned the project in early 2021 because it was too expensive. Since then, tech giants have come up with various sky-based schemes to improve telecommunications between the continent and the rest of the world. So far, the most successful has been Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites, which will provide internet to Africa sometime in 2023.

Though sky-based internet signals seem promising, the near future may actually belong to subsea fiber-optic cables. Google is at work on its Equiano project, which has already connected an undersea cable to Lomé, Togo, and Meta is planning to connect the continent through its 2Africa cable, ...

About the Authors

Andrew Blum is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared in Time, WIRED and Popular Science. His books include Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet and The Weather Machine: A Journey Inside the ForecastCarey Baraka is a writer from Kisumu, Kenya. His work covering topics from literary culture to politics has been featured in the Johannesburg Review of Books, Electric Literature and Foreign Policy.

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