A U.S. government committee urged the FCC to deny an application to connect Cuba to the United States through a new undersea cable designed to handle internet, voice and data traffic. The Justice Department-led panel known as “Team Telecom,” said the proposal raised national security concerns because the cable-landing system in Cuba would be owned and controlled by Cuba’s state-owned telecommunications monopoly, Empresa de Telecommunicaciones de Cuba S.A. It would also be the only direct, commercial undersea cable connection between America and Cuba, reports Reuters.
The U.S. government in recent years has been scrutinizing undersea cable connections especially involving China. Around 300 subsea cables form the backbone of the internet, carrying 99 percent of the world’s data traffic.
Team Telecom said Cuba “could access sensitive U.S. data traversing the new cable segment.” An FCC spokesman said the agency is reviewing the recommendations.
The existing ARCOS-1 submarine cable system connects the U.S. with 14 countries in the Caribbean, Central America and South America and sought to expand to a landing station in Cojimar, Cuba. The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment, according to Reuters.
Team Telecom said it supports the “Cuban people’s access to an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable internet” but said the proposal poses “unacceptable risks to U.S. national security.” FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks called for enhanced scrutiny of undersea cables in 2020, citing national security concerns, Inside Towers reported.
Alphabet’s Google and Facebook parent Meta previously abandoned a proposal to use an undersea cable to Hong Kong, which is controlled by Beijing. The decision was made after Team Telecom recommended blocking that plan in 2020.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief