US Government To Reject Pacific Undersea Cable – Report

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Undersea cable funded by Google and Facebook, connecting Los Angeles to Hong Kong, is to be blocked by US over national security concerns

The United States looks set to block an undersea cable that connects Los Angeles to Hong Kong, despite the fact that it has already been built.

The Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) cable was funded by Google and Facebook, as well as a Chinese broadband provider called Dr. Peng Telecom & Media Group Co.

But trouble began in August 2019, when it was reported that the cable was being opposed by the US Justice Department (DoJ) because of national security concerns over its Chinese investor and the direct link to Hong Kong.

Undersea cable

This was important, as the DoJ leads a multi-agency review panel known as Team Telecom, and now according to the BBC, Team Telecom has recommended the US denies its approval.

The decision is further evidence of the growing tech cold war between the United States and China, amid concerns of Chinese data theft.

The PLCN cable was first announced back in 2016 as a partnership between Google, Facebook, and other companies. It aimed to be the highest capacity transpacific connection to date.

Indeed, the cable was designed to offer greater bandwidth, thanks to “state-of-the-air C+L band optical technology and open cable structure”.

Google said in 2016 that it had invested in the 12,800 km long (8,000 miles) cable to enhance its public cloud infrastructure, which comprises data centres, terrestrial networks and subsea connections.

But the PLCN cable had been facing a real threat of not being granted a licence by Team Telecom, which it needs in order to operate.

And now Team Telecom reportedly rejected the license application, which is said to be the first time the US has rejected an undersea cable license because of national security concerns.

National security

It should be noted that the PLCN does not only just connect Los Angeles and Hong Kong, but it also has sections that connected the US to both Taiwan and the Philippines.

According to the BBC, Team Telecom has recommended approval for the Taiwan and Philippines sections.

But on Wednesday, it recommended the US to Hong Kong section was denied “on national security grounds”.

According to the BBC, the reasons were as follows:

  1. China’s “sustained efforts to acquire the sensitive personal data of millions of US persons”
  2. China’s “access to other countries’ data through both digital infrastructure investments”
  3. The Dr Peng Group’s “relationship with Chinese intelligence and security services, and its obligations under Chinese intelligence and cyber-security laws”
  4. China’s “recent actions to remove Hong Kong’s autonomy and allow for the possibility that Chinese intelligence and security services will operate openly in Hong Kong”

The final decision will be taken by the US Federal Communications Commission.

The Team Telecom decision comes at the same time as when former CEO and chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, launched an extraordinary and blunt assessment of Huawei Technologies.

Schmidt said that the Chinese firm poses challenges to national security and has engaged in unacceptable acts in the past. He also alleged that information from Huawei routers ended up in Chinese government hands.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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