How the Myrtle Beach area could become an internet hub both globally and in SC

MYRTLE BEACH Call this Myrtle Beach Interstate Exit.

Undersea cables, fiber-optic lines the size of a garden hose that run along the ocean floor, will soon connect the Grand Strand to the globe with a station in Myrtle Beach.

This is the digital infrastructure we use every day, said Bill Thomson, vice president of marketing and product management for DC Blox, an Atlanta-based company that plans to open a data center and an international cable landing station. submarines near The Market Common this summer.

Not only will the center house undersea cables from tech giants Google and Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, but it will provide space for local businesses to outsource their technology infrastructure.

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Like a highway system, undersea or undersea cables connect communities. This underwater network forms the backbone of the global internet.

Myrtle Beach will be one of the few East Coast areas with a submarine cable landing station. Most of the stations are located in the Northeast, particularly in the New York/New Jersey area. There are also a few in Virginia Beach, Virginia and groups in Florida.

The tech giants have invested in these cables in recent years for two main reasons: They want to meet the growing demand for data and they need alternative routes for Internet traffic in case a road goes dead.

Hurricane Sandy in 2012 highlighted the need for additional connectivity as it devastated telecommunications infrastructure in the Northeast. The superstorm proved to be a showdown and forced companies to understand the risk of concentrating so many cables in one place.

So where are the cable connection points in Myrtle Beach? The Anjana cable, owned by Edge Cable Holdings USA, a subsidiary of Meta, will connect Myrtle Beach to Santander in Spain via more than 4,440-mile cable once it is operational next year. Google previously announced that its Firmina cable would run from Myrtle Beach to South America.

These cables will pass through Myrtle Beach State Park and make their way to DC Blox’s 40,800-square-foot facility, which sits on more than 21 acres in the International Technology and Aerospace Park. This will be DC Blox’s first data center in Horry County and second in the state. The company also operates a data center in Greenville, with plans for a facility in Berkeley County.

Founded in 2014, the company also has data centers in southeast Atlanta; Birmingham, Alabama; Huntsville, Alabama; and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The structure is designed to withstand winds of up to 170mph, according to Thomson, and in its current configuration could house three more submarine cables.

We designed it to support at least five submarine cables, Thomson said. We are literally pulled into the ocean under the beach with five pipes. We have three more that can be leveraged by customers, and of course if we get enough demand, we can expand our facility to support more.

Thomson said Google suggested to DC Blox that the Myrtle Beach area would be an attractive location for a submarine cable landing station, as it is centrally located on the southeast coast with a growing population and has characteristics key physics including low currents and no barrier islands.

Horry County, home to popular tourist destination Myrtle Beach, was the 24th fastest growing nation over the past decade, according to US Census data. The county added nearly 85,000 residents in that time as the population increased by nearly a third.

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Although Myrtle Beach is known more for tourism than technology, area leaders recognize that they must find strategic ways to diversify the local economy to attract higher-paying jobs.

Sandy Davis, president of Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., which is responsible for recruiting new industries in Horry County, said the organization is seeing interest from other technology companies that want to move to International Technology and Aerospace Park after the announcement of the submarine cables of Google and Meta.

Technology and aerospace are what that park was developed for, and I think this is definitely a step in the right direction, Davis said. I don’t see why we wouldn’t be equivalent to other areas that have undersea cables like Virginia Beach.

With the help of the industry recruiting agency, government officials have tried to attract business in recent years by expanding or opening area business parks, including the Ascott Valley Industrial Park near US 701 North between Loris and Conway, Cool Springs Business Park near Aynor, Loris Industrial Park and the under construction Palmetto Coast Industrial Park in North Myrtle Beach.

DC Blox officials said a nearly 500-mile dark-fiber cable route is also under construction to connect Myrtle Beach’s undersea cable landing station to Atlanta across nine counties including Horry, Georgetown, Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Orangeburg, Bamberg, Barnwell and Aiken.

The fiber cable route across the state is expected to provide nearly 2 million South Carolina residents with access to local content, regional cloud computing and wireless services.

When you put more digital infrastructure in your state, you bring in technology-dependent businesses, Thomson said. Many of these rural communities are struggling to gain access to good reliable communications.

While local leaders remain optimistic about the future of the tech industry in Myrtle Beach, the arrival of data centers and other businesses is not a given. Using the interstate analogy, some exits see many businesses arriving; others remain empty.

Industry experts say how a community plans to attract tech businesses and develops the necessary infrastructure will be critical to creating a tech hub.

So far, however, area leaders insist the signs are positive.

In my mind, it’s just a huge catalyst for Myrtle Beach, said Karen Riordan, president of the Myrtle Beach area Chamber of Commerce. It’s like a siren song. Cities and counties that may never get a return call are now feeling we’re coming.

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