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Spying Concerns Hold Up Underwater Cable Project

The DOJ is concerned that the cable could be tapped and used for Chinese spying operations.


First announced in 2016, an undersea cable project championed by Google and Facebook is now facing scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The multimillion-dollar initiative is part of the Pacific Light Cable Network, is approximately 8,000 miles long, and would span the Pacific Ocean – linking Los Angeles with Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines.

The project is the first of its kind in linking the regions, as most Pacific cables run directly to Japan. The cable is meant to support a growing focus on cloud-based services, as well as an increase in video and other on-line content. The high-capacity, low-latency fiber optic cable would be able to support data speeds of 120 terabytes/second. 

The DOJ is concerned that the cable could be tapped and used for Chinese spying operations. In response it has formed a task force dubbed Team Telecom, which is recommending that the FCC not permit the connection to Hong Kong.

Also raising eyebrows at the Department of Justice is the fact that a large investor in the cable was a Hong Kong-based company called Dr. Peng, Ltd. It is one of the largest telecommunication service providers in the People's Republic of China.

Additionally, the DOJ feels that the cable could eventually become a sort of Asia-Pacific telecommunications hub – meaning that China could be tapping into even more U.S. communications down the line. 

While some see this stance from Washington as a bit paranoid, it’s worth noting that much of Hong Kong’s autonomy has recently been removed by the Chinese government. For example, in May the PRC introduced new regulations that will allow it to crack down on government critics.

Team Telecom specified that the cable portions connecting with Taiwan and the Philippines should be allowed to proceed as planned.

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