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St. Piran’s Day: Cornwall’s little-known role in global internet

Posted on March 5, 2021

 

You can probably name the patron saints of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but did you know that the county of Cornwall has own of its own too?

Strictly speaking, St. Piran is the patron saint of tin miners, but with that industry being so heavily linked to Cornwall, it has led him to become regarded as the patron saint of the southwestern county. March 5th is St. Piran’s Day, on which many Cornish towns and businesses offer their staff an extra holiday in celebration.

On thinking of Cornwall, you probably imagine serene beaches, clotted cream, farming, cider and, of course, huge pasties. It’s a county usually associated with an idyllic lifestyle, so probably isn’t somewhere you would think of as a digital hotspot.

You’d be wrong, though. On the Lizard peninsular, the southernmost part of mainland Britain, is Goonhilly Downs – home to what was once the largest satellite earth station and a 12-megawatt wind farm, but also a warehouse containing a fibreoptic cable spanning half the world.

According to this BBC video, the site is responsible for a quarter of the world’s internet data, making it the biggest crossroads of its kind on the planet. The world’s fastest internet cable, used to transmit financial data between London and New York, leaves our shores under Cornwall’s beaches, so it’s understandable that Dr. Ranulf Scarborough, Director of the Superfast Cornwall Programme, describes the county as “absolutely the heart of the global internet”.

It’s a strange paradox that despite its pivotal role in getting the world online, Cornwall’s relatively remote location means it has some of the biggest connectivity issues in the country. Indeed, in the village of Praa Sands, residents have been without internet or phone signals since February 2 – a particularly serious issue during lockdown.

In that way, Cornwall is an example of both the exciting future of the internet and the basic challenges it still has to overcome, but just for one day, it seems right that we should celebrate the character and contributions of this distinctive part of England.

Wherever you’re based in the UK or elsewhere, we at Engage Web believe that the internet can have both a global and local emphasis at the same time. We use writers from around the world and can help you find the geographical keywords people are searching for, so why not give us a call or use our contact form?

John Murray
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