US set to block activation of controversial undersea web cable

(Image credit: Shuterstock / Christoph Burgstedt)

The US government will likely block the activation of an undersea web cable linking the US to Hong Kong over fears of Chinese data theft.

The Pacific Light Cable Network was first announced in 2016 as a partnership between Google, Facebook and other companies with the aim of boosting internet speeds and capacity between North America and Asia.

However, a US government committee known as “Team Telecom” is now recommending that the US denies approval for the undersea cable on the grounds of national security. In a press release, the US Department of Justice explained how one of the investors in the Pacific Light Cable Network could pose a risk to the country's national security, saying:

“As submitted to the FCC, the PLCN application would have allowed for the highest capacity subsea cable connection between the United States and Asia and been the first direct connection between the United States and Hong Kong.  This raised national security concerns, because a significant investor in the PLCN is Pacific Light Data Co. Ltd., a Hong Kong company and subsidiary of Dr. Peng Telecom & Media Group Co. Ltd. (Dr. Peng Group), the fourth largest provider of telecommunications services in the PRC.”

Pacific Light Cable Network

The Pacific Light Cable Network is just one of the hundreds of undersea cables that provide global internet connectivity. When the new undersea cable was first announced, Google said that it would be 8,000 miles long and the “highest-capacity trans-Pacific route”.

In addition to connecting the US to Hong Kong, the project also has portions that connect the US with Taiwan and the Philippines. The installation of the Pacific Light Cable Network reportedly cost millions of dollars and the cable itself is ready to be turned on but needs approval to operate.

Team Telecom has recommended approval for the Taiwan and Philippines sections of the cable. However, the committee recommends that the activation of US to Hong Kong section should be blocked.

While Team Telecom doesn't want to activate the Hong Kong section of the cable, the final decision will ultimately be made by the FCC.


Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.