Facebook cancels undersea cable to Hong Kong

US government raised concerns about Chinese spying

Fiber cable underwater

Once again, plans for an underwater data cable between California and Hong Kong have been scrapped because the US government feared China could have used it to steal data.

Facebook is dropping its bid to install an 8,000-mile-long fiber-optic cable running along the ocean floor, connecting Hong Kong and Taiwan with two California sites. The tech giant informed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a filing that it was withdrawing its plans. 

Facebook killed the project because of pressure from US national security officials who raised concerns that an undersea cable to Hong Kong would be vulnerable to Chinese espionage. 

“Due to ongoing concerns from the U.S. government about direct communications links between the United States and Hong Kong, we have decided to withdraw our FCC application,” Facebook told the Wall Street Journal.

Underwater cables carry most of the world’s data and are a vital part of global communications. Groups of communications firms typically build these cables and then charge other companies to use them.

This is only the latest cross-Pacific undersea data cable to stall because of resistance from the US government.

In September, developers canceled plans for a separate underwater cable between Los Angeles and Hong Kong because the US government believed the Hong Kong operators had a relationship with Chinese intelligence and security services.

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That canceled cable involved tech firms like Google and Facebook. The firms announced the project in 2016. At that time, Google said the cable would “provide enough capacity for Hong Kong to have 80 million concurrent HD video conference calls with Los Angeles.”

A third undersea cable between the U.S. and Hong Kong was also canceled last year when Facebook withdrew its proposal to lay a cable between Hong Kong and San Francisco.

All these plans were killed after the U.S. Department of Justice warned the FCC against direct links between the U.S. and Hong Kong because of Chinese crackdowns on Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, in the Atlantic Ocean, Google is building an underwater data cable linking the US, England, and Spain. The “Grace Hopper” cable, Google’s fourth privately owned undersea cable, will run from New York and split off to Bilbao in Spain and Cornwall in the UK.

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