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

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Hong Kong skyline

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

Plans for an underwater data cable between Los Angeles and Hong Kong have been dropped after the US government expressed fears that China could steal data from it.

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

New plans submitted to the US communication authority mention links with the Philippines and Taiwan only.

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

However it needs permission from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in order to operate.

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 concurrent HD video conference calls with Los Angeles”.

The US tech firms were collaborating on the cable with a Chinese broadband giant called the Dr Peng Group.

In recent months tensions have been mounting between the US and China.

‘Shot in the foot’

Prof Alan Woodward, a cyber-security expert at Surrey University, said the decision might prove to be counter-productive for the US.

“The whole purpose of having the cable join with Hong Kong was that Hong Kong was meant to become an Asian hub so that US tech firms could start to gain more Asian customers,” he said.

“The US government has in some ways shot their own tech firms in the foot. They’re worried about the influence of Chinese tech firms, but this is preventing US companies from getting into the region at all.”

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Stark said in a tweet that he “shared the concerns” of the US Department of Justice about China accessing data carried by the cable and would “continue to speak out”.

Prof Woodward said that the US’s caution about data monitoring 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

  • Cyber-security
  • Internet


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