The Biden administration on Friday recommended that Alphabet’s Google and Facebook mother Meta be allowed to use an undersea cable system to handle growing internet traffic with Asia. The government urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to license the companies to send and receive data on the existing 8,000-mile Pacific Light Cable Network. The submarine fiber optic cable system connects the United States, Taiwan, the Philippines and Hong Kong.
Submarine cables carry almost all of the world’s internet data traffic. Meta has requested permission to use the part of the Philippines to the United States, while Google has requested permission to connect to Taiwan.
The companies are committed to protecting the privacy and security of Americans’ data, particularly from China’s intelligence operations.
Google and Meta’s plan dropped a previous proposal to use the cable from the network to Beijing-owned Hong Kong. Multiple US government agencies have recommended blocking that plan in 2020.
The Justice Department said the national security agreements with Google and Meta were necessary given China’s “ongoing efforts to obtain the sensitive personal data of millions of American individuals”.
The Chinese embassy in Washington and Google did not immediately comment.
Google said in 2020 it needed the data connections to handle the growing traffic between its data centers in Taiwan and the United States.
A Meta spokesperson said the “cable system will increase internet capacity” between the United States and the Philippines “to help people stay connected and share content.” The cables are secure and data is protected by advanced encryption, it said.
Under the agreements, Google and Meta must perform annual risk analyzes for sensitive data and be able to limit or stop data traffic on the cables within 24 hours.
About 300 submarine cables form the backbone of the internet and carry 99 percent of the global data traffic.
© Thomson Reuters 2021