Pacific Undersea Cable Drops Hong Kong, Amid National Security Concerns

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Google and Facebook’s Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) cable will not be activated in Hong Kong, after security law and national security concerns

An undersea cable that was intended to connect Los Angeles to Hong Kong, will no longer land in the Chinese administrative region.

It comes after Google, Facebook and Twitter confirmed last month they had stopped processing requests for user data made by Hong Kong law enforcement authorities, because of a draconian security law in the region.

China had passed the highly controversial security law in Hong Kong, which the British government said violated its Joint Declaration agreement between the two countries.

PLCN cable

Indeed, such was the concern that the British government provided Hong Kong citizens who have a British overseas passport, with eligibility for a route to full British citizenship.

Many countries widely condemned the law which they said violates the “one country, two systems” framework agreed when the UK handed back the territory to China in 1997.

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

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.

The PLCN was intended to not only just connect Los Angeles and Hong Kong, but also connect the US to both Taiwan and the Philippines.

But problems surfaced last year when it was reported that the US government had national security concerns over its Chinese investor (over its links to Chinese intelligence services) as well as the direct link to Hong Kong.

Then in June this year the US Department of Justice was said to be close to rejecting approval for the cable, due to those national security concerns.

Hong Kong

Now the BBC, citing new plans submitted to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), reported that the new plan now only mentions links with the Philippines and Taiwan, and not Hong Kong.

This is despite the fact that the 12,800 km (8,000 miles) long cable has already been laid, so presumably the Hong Kong section will not be activated, and will remain as a ‘dark’ unused section of undersea cabling.

“We can confirm that the original application for the PLCN cable system has been withdrawn, and a revised application for the US-Taiwan and US-Philippines portions of the system has been submitted,” a spokeswoman for Google told the BBC.

“We continue to work through established channels to obtain cable landing licenses for our undersea cables.”

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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