Google is considering an investment in Elon Musk’s company SpaceX, as part of a plan to deliver internet by satellite to the developing world and other areas that lack coverage.
The deal has not been finalised, but would value SpaceX at around the $10bn (£6.6bn) mark, and would be a significant boost to the aim of both countries to deliver low-cost internet across the globe.
As the map above shows, in vast swathes of the world less than 20 per cent of the population was connected to the internet in 2013, the last year for which the World Bank has data. Many of the world's fastest-growing economies remain largely in the digital dark ages, including India and much of Africa.
The beginnings of a Silicon Valley space race have been visible for a while as tech giants jostle for a crack at providing the internet to the developing world without being swamped by the restrictive costs of ground-based infrastructure.
Last March, Facebook said it was investigating the possibility of using drones, lasers and satellites to deliver the internet, while Google is understood to be investing $3bn, even considering the use of high-altitude balloons.
Facebook and Google have already clashed in their efforts: Facebook was said to be interested in acquiring Mexican company Titan Aerospace, which makes solar-powered drones, but was beaten to the punch by Google.
According to World Bank data, just 20 per cent of the global population has internet access.