US officials are reportedly trying to block an 8,000-mile Google and Facebook-backed undersea cable to China on national-security grounds


undersea internet cables map

  • An 8,000-mile undersea cable connecting Los Angeles to Hong Kong is at risk of being abandoned over national-security threats, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • A multiagency panel led by the Justice Department, known as Team Telecom, has raised objections to the cable, which is nearing completion, The Journal said.
  • The cable would provide faster internet to both the US and China, The Journal said.
  • Team Telecom’s reported opposition highlights the ongoing heightened fear among Americans over possible threats posed by China to US national security.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

US officials are seeking to block an undersea internet cable linking the US to China over national-security concerns, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing people involved in the discussions.

The multiagency panel led by the Department of Justice, known as Team Telecom, is objecting to the massive cable project, which hopes to provide faster internet to both the US and China, The Journal said.

Business Insider contacted the DOJ for comment on The Journal’s report but did not immediately receive a response.

The project is being backed by Google, Facebook, and a private Chinese telecommunications company called Dr. Peng Telecom & Media Group Co., The Journal reported. Dr. Peng is the fourth-largest telecom company in China.

Among Team Telecom’s concerns are Dr. Peng’s ties to the Chinese government and the ongoing protests in Hong Kong against Beijing’s increasing efforts to integrate the semiautonomous hub with the mainland.

Many private Chinese companies keep close ties to the ruling Communist Party to maintain a favorable business environment.

hong kong protest

Construction work on the 8,000-mile Pacific Light Cable Network linking Los Angeles to Hong Kong is already mostly complete, with a temporary permit for its construction expiring in September, The Journal reported.

Now the cable may be prevented from operating because of Team Telecom’s reported objections, which highlight the heightened fears among Americans over national-security threats from China.

In January, the DOJ labeled the Chinese telecom giant Huawei a national-security threat and accused it of violating sanctions on business with Iran and of stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile.

Trump Xi

People who support the construction of cable say that Team Telecom’s approval would actually give the US more control over the cable because the Federal Communications Commission could make the companies agree to more stringent security measures, the Journal reported.

Linking the US mainland to Hong Kong could also give US companies greater access to other growing markets in Asia, such as the Philippines and Malaysia.

Team Telecom has approved cable projects in the past — including those involving state-owned Chinese telecom companies — if the companies in charge can show they have taken enough steps to stop foreign governments from blocking or tapping traffic through the cables, the Journal reported.

Read more: This incredible map shows the undersea cables that keep the internet alive — and security services are worried Russia could cut them

Defense authorities in the West have in recent years ramped up warnings that state aggressors, such as Russia, could cut undersea internet cables to disrupt the world economy.

A Google spokeswoman told the Journal that the company has “been working through established channels for many years in order to obtain U.S. cable landing licenses for various undersea cables,” and that it is “currently engaged in active and productive conversations” with the US government to satisfy their requirements for the Pacific Light cable.

A spokesperson for the company declined to provide further comment beyond the Journal’s report when approached by Business Insider on Wednesday.

Facebook is yet to respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on the report.

You can read The Wall Street Journal’s full story here.

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