US Justice Department recommends against direct undersea telecoms link

5th December 2022

A US Department of Justice led committee has recommended to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that they deny an application seeking the installation of a direct submarine telecommunications cable directly connecting the US with Cuba.

The new undersea cable was intended to carry internet, voice, and data traffic. The Justice Department panel said the proposal raised national security concerns because the cable-landing system in Cuba would be owned and controlled by ETECSA Cuba’s state-owned telecommunications company and would be the only direct, commercial undersea cable connection between the two countries.

ARCOS-1 USA, the entity seeking to lay the cable, had previously indicated in a 2021 filing to the FCC that the cable would “increase the means through which Cubans on the island can communicate with the United States and the rest of the world.” It had cited a 2019 State Department Cuba Internet Task Force that “recommended enabling the construction of new submarine cables to Cuba.”

Present routes of submarine cables in Caribbean

However, the Department of Justice committee said that while it supported the “Cuban people’s access to an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable internet” the proposal posed “unacceptable risks to US national security.” ARCOS-1, which incorporates eighteen carriers including Verizon plus others from Latin America and the Caribbean, had sought to land the cable at Cojimar, Cuba.

The ARCOS-1 submarine cable system connects twenty-four landing points in fifteen countries in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America including Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua, and Mexico with the US.

The company had previously said that it intended achieving the service by creating a branch from an existing part of the ARCOS-1 Cable that lies approximately 56km off the coast of Cuba. In recent years there have been other attempts to restore a direct link between the two countries in some cases involving links to other cables that pass close to Cuba’s shores.

Responding, Cuba’s Vice Foreign Minister, Carlos Fernández de Cossío, criticised the recommendation noting: “This is the way in which the US Government is supposed to fulfil its declared commitment to promote the use of the Internet in Cuba, to express in practice its declared concern for the well-being of the Cuban people, whom it ruthlessly punishes with the economic blockade.”

Photo by Alvaro Pinot

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