Google-Facebook ditch plans to dock giant data cable in Hong Kong

Hong Kong skyline

copyright of the imageGetty Images

image captionThe original plan was to land the data cable in Hong Kong

Plans for an undersea data cable between Los Angeles and Hong Kong were abandoned after the US government expressed fears that China could steal data from it.

Facebook, Google and Amazon are among the US tech companies involved in the Pacific Light Cable Network project.

The new plans submitted to the US communications authority only mention links with the Philippines and Taiwan.

The 12,800 km (8,000 miles) long cable has already been laid.

However, it requires clearance from the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in order to function.

The project was first announced in 2016.

At the time, Google said the cable would “provide enough capacity for Hong Kong to have 80 million simultaneous HD video conferences with Los Angeles.”

US tech companies were partnering on cable with a Chinese broadband giant called Dr Peng Group.

Tensions between the United States and China have increased in recent months.

‘Shot in the foot’

Professor Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity expert at Surrey University, said the decision could prove counterproductive for the United States.

“The whole purpose of the cable connection with Hong Kong was that Hong Kong was to become an Asian hub so that US technology companies could start acquiring more Asian customers,” he said.

“The US government has somehow hit their technology companies in the foot. They are concerned about the influence of Chinese technology companies, but this is preventing US companies from entering the region.”

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Stark said in a tweet that it “shared the concerns” of the US Department of Justice about China’s access to the data transmitted by the cable and that it would “keep talking.”

Professor Woodward said the US caution on monitoring data was understandable, because it also happens in the West.

There is, for example, an office of the British intelligence service GCHQ near Bude in Cornwall, where several transatlantic data cables enter the UK, he said, although its activities are classified.

Related topics

  • China-US relations

  • IT security
  • Internet

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