Undersea cable to China may be nixed on national security grounds

Wall Street Journal reports Google, Facebook and a Chinese firm are behind a project the US government hopes to stop.

    A stylised undersea cable map shows the approximate routes of extensive fibreoptic lines that stretch across the ocean floor [Creative Commons/TeleGeography]
    A stylised undersea cable map shows the approximate routes of extensive fibreoptic lines that stretch across the ocean floor [Creative Commons/TeleGeography]

    Citing national security concerns, United States officials are seeking to block an undersea cable between Los Angeles and Hong Kong that is being backed by Alphabet Inc's Google, Facebook Inc and a partner based in China, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Wednesday.

    The US Department of Justice has signalled staunch opposition to the project because of doubts about the Chinese investor, Beijing-based Dr. Peng Telecom & Media Group Co, and the direct link that the cable would provide to Hong Kong, the WSJ reported.

    Heading up a multiagency "Team Telecom" panel with oversight over telecommunications, the Justice Department has been looking into the Pacific Light Cable Network.

    Subsea cables form the backbone of the internet by carrying 99 percent of the world's data traffic, and the stakeholders have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this particular project.

    The US has never before objected to such a cable licence due to national security considerations. But to do business going forward, the licence is required.

    US-China tensions

    The national security review taking place could change the way that internet connectivity across the Pacific is structured.

    The goal of the joint venture is to provide faster connections for users at both ends of the ocean.

    A temporary permit has allowed the work to be carried out thus far. But it expires next month, according to the WSJ's reporting.

    In the past, Team Telecom gave the green light once the company responsible for the US beachhead took sufficient steps to stop foreign governments from tapping into the lines.

    Regulators may be indicating that a tough, new stance will be imposed on China-related projects.

    Given escalating trade tensions between Washington and Beijing and the increasing rivalry between the world's two largest economies, the US appears to be growing more suspicious of China's global ambitions.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies