Google has been given permission to operate a subsea cable, connecting the US and Asia, but under several conditions, including that the cable cannot connect to Hong Kong.
If you cast your mind back to August 2019, you might remember a trans-pacific subsea cable which was coming under scrutiny in the US political arena. Funded by the likes of Google and Facebook, the 8,000 km cable, known as the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN), was supposed to link Los Angeles with Hong Kong to provide more diversity and resiliency across the Pacific.
This was all sound, though it was another partner of the Google and Facebook who was investing in the cable which caught the attention of Congress. Pacific Light Data Communication (PLDC) is owned by Dr Peng, one of China’s largest broadband companies, though it also have potential links to the Chinese Government. These links are not incredibly overt, though that has not been a condition for judgment in the US before.
These troubles seem to be in the rear-view mirror as the US Department of Justice has suggested no other authorities should oppose Google operating part of the cable, connecting the US to Taiwan. This is only a temporary licence as all the kinks are ironed out for the permanent licence, but Google has not gotten off easily. There are several conditions attached to the operation of the cable.
Set forth in a Provisional National Security Agreement, Google has agreed several conditions with the DoJ, which is also representing the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense in the discussions. Some of the conditions, but by no means all, are as follows:
- Within 15 days Google will have to provide detailed information outlined the cables network management information for the US-Taiwan segment, including terrestrial facilities, PLCN organizational chart, as well as descriptions of interfaces and connections to the PLCN System for service offload, disaster recovery and administrative functions
- Any network operations centres would have to be located in the US
- Google must have the ability to kill off the cable completely or in sections within a 24-hour period
- There must not be any operational connections to Hong Kong
- PLDC, the company owned by Dr Peng, will not operate any equipment or software, perform network management functions, to have access to any operations related to the US-Taiwan segment
- The compliance monitoring agencies have the right to veto any changes Google or other investors in the cable propose
You can access the full document and all the conditions here.
There are of course plenty of conditions associated with the subsea cable, but this is a win for Google. Once Congress got a whiff of Dr Peng and a link to the Chinese Government, this could have been a dead project. Google came out with a net-gain here, even if it did have to offer a few concessions.