Facebook is coming to Madison, sort of.
Last week, Madison County Supervisors approved an indefinite special use permit allowing the construction of a telecommunications equipment shelter for data transfer on a property located off Rt. 29 near Oak Hill. The shelter is part of a fiber-optic route being constructed by Middle Mile Infrastructure, a subsidiary launched by Facebook to act as a wholesale carrier offering network transport.
Facebook owns and operates a growing number of data centers which, according to Facebook Connectivity, provides its 2.7 billion users with the best experience. In March, Facebook announced plans to build two new fiber routes to directly connect between data centers in Ohio, Virginia and North Carolina. One of the routes cuts through Madison. Approximately every 50 miles along the route, a telecommunications equipment shelter is being constructed. In addition to the one planned near Oak Hill, shelters are also being planned in Nelson and Fauquier counties.
Middle Mile Infrastructure Engineer John Tucker said the shelter, which is basically a hub, will be a 12x39 pre-fabricated building surrounded by an 8-foot fence with barbed wire and equipped with security cameras. He said the easement for the shelter will be jointly owned by VDOT and Facebook staff will likely make monthly visits to check on equipment. The building will be located on property owned by Tyler and Heather Hochstetler, who submitted the permit request. Tucker said the easement is being purchased from the Hochstetlers, but did not give an exact cost.
The fiber line being constructed along the route will be privately owned by Facebook. However, Facebook Connectivity said it plans to allow third parties to purchase excess capacity on the fiber. Doing so, Facebook said, could provide additional infrastructure to existing and emerging providers as well as help them to extend service to parts of the country that may currently be underserved.
Tucker said construction of the line will take approximately 18-24 months. According to Facebook Connectivity, it’s just the next step in an ongoing infrastructure expansion to provide its user with good experiences.
The special use permit application was recommended for approval by the planning commission 6-0 and unanimously approved by the board of supervisors.