In Grover Beach, construction crews are installing steel conduits in the ocean to hold subsea fiber optic cables.
“Ninety-five percent of all telecommunications traffic happens on a fiber optic cable, so these cables simply carry that traffic across the ocean," said Chris Brungardt, the president of HMB Solutions, Inc., which is in charge of the installation.
Everything done on the internet turns into a digital signal and the fiber optic cables carry that traffic across the ocean.
The cables will span about 9,000 miles, all the way to Singapore. Brungardt says the COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the need for better communications.
“More of us are doing Zoom calls, all these video feeds. Those take very large amounts of telecommunications capacity that required fiber optic cables,” he explained.
There are 12 fiber optic cable lines in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. At the end of this project, there will be five of these cables at the Grover Beach site alone.
Brungardt went on to say that San Francisco and Los Angeles are major telecommunications hubs, and the Central Coast's location between them is ideal to allow for direct connectivity with one trans pacific cable.
The project undergoes environmental studies, and according to HMB Solutions, there will be very little impact on the ecosystems in the ocean.
“There is no electromagnetic force there, no emission from this cable at all. It's, you can see, it's very small, so its footprint on the ocean floor is extremely small,” said Brungardt. He continued to say the cables will be buried four feet under the ocean floor, which will allow fishermen to fish right over them.
“We ask that they be aware of the cables and use caution when fishing there, but it does not prohibit. In fact, in the 25 years that there have been 23 cables off the ocean floor in California, there's never been an entanglement with fishing gear,” said Brungardt.
He added that local governments will benefit from the construction through annual lease fees. “So we have an agreement with the park that has a large upfront payment and then annual lease fees and then the City of Grover Beach, as we connect from here back to the cable station in Grover Beach, the City gets paid an easement fee as well.”
This phase of the project is expected to be completed by Christmas. There are additional cable lines planned in Grover Beach for late 2023 and 2024.