Facebook plans to build a fiber network that will start in Ashburn, VA and end in Columbus, OH to connect two major internet exchanges. Construction of the Facebook fiber network will begin this year and take 18 to 24 months to complete, according to a press release.

The release came from West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s office because West Virginia will be a major beneficiary of the backbone. About 275 miles of the fiber will go through the state, the press release said.

Capito’s press release suggests that this new Facebook fiber network may interconnect with other fiber networks within West Virginia, perhaps even sell (or otherwise make available) capacity to connecting fiber networks. “As a result of the project, broadband providers will be able to expand middle-mile networks into communities along the route, and it will establish West Virginia as a preferred route for fiber backbone construction.,” the press release states. Is Facebook getting into the fiber transport business?

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There’s certainly economic benefit to Facebook, besides the public policy PR benefits and exposure the company is receiving. The creation of such a backbone could lessen Facebook data transport connectivity costs between these internet exchange points. Capito appealed directly to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, asking for his help to expand broadband in her state.

Providing capacity to other network providers could provide additional public relations benefits, and perhaps even revenue. High capacity backbones are seen as keys to development, particularly in rural areas. Perhaps Facebook will commit to invest in more fiber infrastructure that traverses rural markets, interconnecting them as a result. It’s doubtful the social media giant would look to this effort as a profit center, but it could provide the company with much needed positive PR.

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