Facebook and Amazon Request US Permission to Exploit Undersea Data Cables

WASHINGTON: Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc have asked the US government for approval for a new submarine data cable between the Philippines and California after China Mobile agreed to abandon the plan, a government agency said Friday.

The two companies told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that they plan to begin commercial operations by the end of 2022 and said the new data link will bring significant new capacity on routes where capacity demand continues to increase significantly each year.

The companies said in a joint filing that the new cable will help support Facebook applications and give Amazon and its affiliates the capacity to support Amazon’s cloud services and connect its data centers.

Amazon, Facebook and China Mobile did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The United States has repeatedly expressed concerns about China’s role in handling network traffic and the potential for espionage. About 300 submarine cables form the backbone of the internet and carry 99 percent of the global data traffic.

In September 2020, Facebook, Amazon and China Mobile withdrew their application to connect San Francisco and Hong Kong as part of the Bay to Bay Express Cable System.

In April 2020, the FCC approved the request from Alphabet Inc unit Google to use part of a submarine telecommunications cable between the US and Asia, which excluded Hong Kong, after US agencies raised concerns about national security.

Google agreed to operate part of this 8,000-mile Pacific Light Cable Network system between the United States and Taiwan, but not to Hong Kong. Google and Facebook co-funded the construction of the completed link, but US regulators have blocked its use.

The companies waived the proposal to use the Hong Kong portion in August 2020.

In May 2019, the FCC voted unanimously to deny China Mobile the right to provide services in the United States, citing the risk that the Chinese government could use the approval to commit espionage against the US government.

(Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jane Merriman)

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