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“Marseille is not doomed to watch the invisible trains of the global Internet go by”

Tribune. Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône) has become in a few years a crossroads for the submarine cables of the Internet which now connect the five continents, which makes it the ninth world node of concentration of networks and data exchanges . The Internet giants are taking advantage of this geographic location and port infrastructure to host their digital farms there, like Microsoft, which has set up one of the four data storage centers deployed in France there.

The long-term consequences of these installations must be the subject of a thorough impact study and a real public debate. These digital industries pose a number of challenges.

First, they are developing in the heart of the city and the growing needs of this economy raise fears of land capture in an already very dense urban center, which could threaten the development of other economic activities. This phenomenon is accentuated by the urban pressure exerted in the perimeter of EuroMéditerranée, with tensions around housing and existing economic activities.

Then, these digital farms create very few jobs in the host cities, if they do not already have highly qualified jobs and globalized activities in their territory, such as in Frankfurt, London or Paris.

Conflicts of use

Finally, these digital farms are activities that consume a lot of electrical energy, which translates into growing power requirements and the constitution of electrical capacity reserves, which can generate conflicts of use on the network. These facilities in Marseille already represent the consumption of a city of nearly 100,000 inhabitants, with growth forecasts that must be taken into account in energy transition scenarios.

Marseille's strategic position in the global Internet nonetheless remains an opportunity to initiate the energy transition, reduce the digital divide and promote economic development.

First of all, it is an opportunity to ensure the energy transition of the metropolitan territory with an ambitious energy saving objective and a plan for renewable energies. Present in Marseille since 2014, the data storage giant Interxion has already considered technological solutions to recover the heat produced by its data centers, which could be used to supply the heating network of the city of Marseille, as planned. by the company on the La Courneuve site (Seine-Saint-Denis). Digital companies could also support the creation of a semi-public company led by local communities to promote the development of renewable energies.

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