PLATFORM LOGIC AND THE INFRASTRUCTURAL POWER OF TECH GIANTS
Keywords:cloud, data center, network infrastructure, platform logic, power
While Alphabet, Facebook, and Microsoft are mostly associated with online services and mobile applications, they now constitute important actors of the global communication infrastructure, as witnessed by their important investments in data centers, subsea cables, telecommunication networks, and non-terrestrial connectivity (such as drones, balloons, or satellites). Beyond these spectacular (and sometimes hypothetical) projects, this paper details how these tech companies are already changing the ways communication networks are managed. It shows that they become a dominant force shaping global connectivity by leveraging the platform logic that granted them their initial success in the web economy, and adapting it to communication infrastructures. Based on interviews with industry experts and network engineers, document analysis, and site visits, this paper offers a model to analyse this platformization of communication infrastructures: it consists of disaggregating existing networks components, inserting a platform which acts as new integrator, and making networks modular and programmable. This model extends scholarship on the platformization of social and economic life and shows how the same platform logic is at the center of the infrastructural expansion of tech giants and at the source of the power they gain over global connectivity.