The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. government is considering blocking the previously announced 8,000-mile-long Internet cable between Los Angeles and Hong Kong, called the Pacific Light Cable Network, over national security concerns. The cable’s construction was being backed primarily by Google and Facebook, as well as a private Chinese telecommunications company called Dr. Peng Telecom & Media Group Co.
The WSJ reported that a multi-agency panel led by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and known as “Team Telecom” is objecting to Google and Facebook’s cable to Hong Kong. Google and Facebook’s main goal with the cable is to improve Internet connection speeds between the U.S. and China.
Team Telecom’s criticism against the cable also comes at a time of a prolonged protest in Hong Kong against the Chinese government's influence on local politics, that has been going on since earlier this year. Additionally, Team Telecom seems to believe that Dr. Peng, which is also the fourth largest telecom in China, has strong ties to the Chinese government. The cable project was also started at the time when Google was talking to Chinese officials to be allowed back into the country, via the much-criticized Project Dragonfly.
WSJ’s sources also said that if the cable project got the approval from DOJ’s Team Telecom, that could mean increased control by the U.S. government over the project. The U.S. government has approved similar cable projects in the past, with the condition that the companies in charge have taken enough steps to ensure that foreign actors can’t block access to the data flowing through the cable or spy on that data.
The Pacific Light Cable Network would give American companies, primarily Google and Facebook, access to other Asian countries, such as the Philippines and Malaysia. The construction of the cable is almost complete, but the temporary permit for its construction is also expiring in September, which could put pressure on Google and Facebook to agree to whatever restrictions the U.S. government may want to put on the cable if they want to see it go live.