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FCC sets sights on subsea cables

PLCN cable map.jpg

After banning Chinese vendors from 5G networks, the US could now turn attention to the security of its subsea cable connections.

FCC commissioner Geoffrey Starks has said that US must take a closer look at cables with landing locations in “adversary countries”.

“This includes the four existing submarine cables connecting the US and China, most of which are partially owned by Chinese state-owned companies,” he told a commission meeting on Wednesday.

He continued to say the FCC “must ensure that adversary countries and other hostile actors can’t tamper with, block, or intercept the communications they carry.”

Given events in Hong Kong and China this year, the global subsea market has already had its fare share of geopolitical challenges.

The PLCN cable (map pictured) is just one project facing issues. Part owners Google and Facebook asked the FCC in February for permission to activate parts of 8,000 mile PLCN between the US, the Philippines and Taiwan, leaving the sections connecting to Hong Kong dark.

In June, Team Telecom – the telecoms security group set up in Washington in April by President Donald Trump – recommended that the last leg of the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) not be allowed to go into operation.  It recommended that the Taiwan-Philippines-US stretches be approved, as those sections have no Chinese ownership and are controlled by Google and Facebook.

The companies in August abandoned the proposal to use the Hong Kong portion. A Facebook affiliate has sought FCC approval to use a portion of the cable connecting the Philippines and United States.

A second project has also been caught in the crossfire. In September, Facebook, Amazon.com Inc and China Mobile withdrew their application to connect San Francisco and Hong Kong as part of the Bay to Bay Express Cable System. They told the FCC they would work to secure a license “for a reconfigured system” acceptable to the Trump administration.

 

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