FCC Approves Google Request to Use Undersea Cable

On April 8, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved Google’s request to operate a section of the U.S.-Asia undersea telecommunications cable. The Justice Department claims that the tech giant would be faced with remarkably higher prices if forced to carry traffic by other means.

Google agreed to use part of the Pacific Light Cable Network System (PLCN), an 8000-mile submarine cable running between the United States and Taiwan. According to Reuters, “around 300 subsea cables form the backbone of the internet by carrying 99% of the world’s data traffic.”

The section of the PLCN under Google’s domain will exclude Hong Kong. Google and Facebook contributed to the funding of the line’s construction, but U.S. regulators have prevented its use. The FCC said that that other U.S. agencies believe “there is a significant risk that the grant of a direct cable connection between the United States and Hong Kong would seriously jeopardize the national security and law enforcement interests of the United States.” U.S.-China relations have worsened recently from trade disagreements and network security concerns arising from the rollout of 5G wireless networks. Despite tensions between the two nations, the FCC will allow Google to operate part of the PLCN for six months, pending disposition of the license application.

Earlier this year, Google informed U.S. regulators about its “immediate need to meet internal demand for capacity between the U.S. and Taiwan, in particular, to connect Google’s Taiwan data center to Google data centers in the United States.” Google also sought to better connect its users in the Asia-Pacific region.

An affiliate of Facebook seeks similar approval from the FCC to operate a different submarine cable running data traffic from the U.S. to the Philippines. On Wednesday, the company said it is “navigating through all the appropriate channels on licensing and permitting.”