BY : AZRA RIZVI
The United States government is set to reject an underwater data cable, linking the United States to Hong Kong in fears of Chinese data theft.
Backed by Google and Facebook, The Pacific Light Cable Network, is designed to boost internet speed and capacity. There are numerous undersea cables that provide internet connectivity throughout the world. The Pacific Light Cable Network was announced in 2016 as a partnership between Google, Facebook, and other companies including The Dr. Peng group, a Chinese broadband giant.
Google stated that the cable would be12,800 km long (8,000 miles) and would be the “highest-capacity trans-Pacific route”. The company said that it would“provide enough capacity for Hong Kong to have 80 million concurrent HD video conference calls with Los Angeles.”
The cable network which has reportedly cost millions of dollars has already been laid and only requires approval to operate. However, “Team Telecom”, a United States government committee has now recommended that the United States denies its approval.
The committee has recommended approval for the Taiwan and Philippines sections but on Wednesday, it recommended the United States to Hong Kong section was denied on “national security grounds”. In its reasons for disapproval, the committee stated China’s “sustained efforts to acquire the sensitive personal data of millions of United States persons. It said that China has“access to other countries’ data through both digital infrastructure investments and recent PRC intelligence and cybersecurity laws”.
The committee mentioned that the Dr. Peng Group has a relationship with Chinese intelligence and security services, and its obligations under Chinese intelligence and cyber-security laws and the removal of Hong Kong’s autonomy and allow for the possibility that Chinese intelligence and security services will operate openly in Hong Kong.
The final decision has to be taken by the US Federal Communications Commission.
Team Telecom’s recommendation to deny the approval of the US to Hong Kong section of the cable network is a clear indication of the escalating tensions between the US and China who are in a trade war. If the cable is rejected it would reportedly be the first such cable rejected by the US on national security grounds.