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Ship off Pismo Beach coast working on fiber optic cables to Singapore

Posted at 6:33 PM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-06 00:15:41-05

It was hard to miss the big ship sitting right off the coast of Grover and Pismo Beach on Thursday.

The ship is contracted from France and it’s here to lay down fiber optic cables that will run from Grover Beach all the way to Singapore.

With the way technology is advancing, the idea of this project, spearheaded by RTI Infrastructure Inc., is to increase telecommunication for the western United States.

The mysterious ship caught the attention of many when it appeared Thursday.

"First thing I saw this morning was this big boat,” said Andrew Cannon, who lives in Pismo Beach. “I saw a big red dot and I said, ‘Is that a star? Is it a big red maple leaf? Are the Canadians coming to save us?'"

Others exited Highway 101 to get a closer look.

“My first instinct was, 'Is it a battleship of some sort?' and I thought maybe we were in danger, but I pulled over to look and it seemed like a fishing boat,” said Kyron Csotya, a Santa Maria resident.

The vessel is sitting just off the Central Coast to lay fiber optic cable lines four feet below the ocean floor, connecting from a vault in Grover Beach to Asia.

The purpose of the project

RTI Infrastructure Inc. is spearheading the telecommunication project which broke ground in early August 2020.

On Thursday, their crews pulled in the first cable that came from Singapore about 9,500 miles away.

“More and more demand for what's been developing in the United States is growing in Asia. Most internet content is developed in the U.S. and most of that in California or the West Coast,” said Chris Brungardt, RTI Senior Vice President. “The world wants to talk to California and that's what this cable is about and then there will be other cables to different places like Hong Kong, Guam, or Japan."

Brungardt says fiber optic cables ping signals faster than satellites when we surf the internet or use our phones, for example.

“It actually takes longer to bounce from a satellite to Singapore than it would be by a cable. The cable offers better clarity and better connection," said Brungardt.

This isn’t the first installation of such cables on the Central Coast. In the early 2000s, three fiber optic cables were installed in Grover Beach and four to five in Morro Bay connecting to China and Japan.

The local impact

While local residents won't be able to tap into the connectivity directly, it will expand bandwidth for many states.

In addition, the city of Grover Beach will get $100,000 per fiber optic cable per year through encroachment permits. The approved project allows for four fiber optic cables, but only one has been installed so far under this current contract.

“Grover Beach is not only a hub for business but also increasingly a hub for international business, and this ship off our coast really symbolizes the opportunities we have in Grover Beach," said Matthew Bronson, Grover Beach City Manager.

According to Bronson, the revenue generated from the easement agreement (right-of-way), will go into the city's general budget, where city council members can then decide how to use it.

This project is at least five years in the making, with much of the work dealing with environmental permits from the local, state, and federal levels.

The vessel will be gone by the end of the day Thursday and is expected to return in three days when crews will carve a path in the sand about 22 miles offshore to connect to the fiber optic cable in Singapore.

Click here for more details on the project.