Submarine Cable Landing License

To land or operate a submarine cable in the United States, submarine cable operators must obtain a cable landing license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  The FCC’s International Bureau, Telecommunications and Analysis Division (TAD) issues licenses to own and operate submarine cables and associated landing stations in the United States pursuant to the Commission’s authority under the Cable Landing License Act of 1921.

A cable landing license must be obtained prior to landing a submarine cable to connect: 

  1. the continental United States with any foreign country;
  2. Alaska, Hawaii or the U.S. territories or possessions with a foreign country, the continental United States, or with each other; and
  3. points within the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii or a territory or possession in which the cable is laid within international waters.

Streamlined Processing

Applications for cable landing licenses are subject to initial review for completeness of information and, upon acceptance for filing, public notice inviting comment. The FCC's rules provide for streamlined processing with action within 45 days of release of the public notice where the applicant can demonstrate eligibility for streamlining under the FCC's rules. 

The FCC will undertake to act on applications that are ineligible for streamlining within 90 days of issuance of a public notice unless the application raises questions of extraordinary complexity. 

To qualify for streamlining the Applicant must send complete copies of the application:

  1. the Department of State;
  2. the Department of Commerce; and
  3. the Department of Defense. 

The State Department has authorized the Commission to act on applications when the FCC notices the State Department in writing of the filing of an application and the State Department does not object within 30 days of the notification. 

Non-Streamlined Processing

The FCC also coordinates with other Executive Branch agencies applications where a foreign citizen or foreign-organized entity, including foreign government, would hold a 10 percent or greater direct or indirect equity or voting interest in the licensee.

In such senario, the Non-Streamlined Processing may be applied. The Non-Streamlined Processing involves an opaque and sometimes unending review process used by what's commonly known as Team Telecom (i.e., a working group of representatives from the Federal government entities charged with ensuring national security: the Departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Justice, State, Treasury, and Commerce, as well as USTR and the FBI), according to Commissioner of the FCC, Michael O'Rielly.

Special Temporary Authority (STA)

During the Non-Streamlined Processing, the FCC may grant the applicants an Special Temporary Authority (STA) to carry out certain engineering works and/or partial operation in the territory of the United States. STAs are granted with a fixed expiration date, usually six months, or for the term necessary to cover a special event, etc. STAs do not have grace periods and are valid only through their expiration date. The FCC may grant extensions of an STA for a period of 180 days, but the applicant must show that extraordinary circumstances warrant such an extension.

FCC Licensed Submarine Cable Systems

As of December 2019, there are 74 FCC licensed submarine cable systems (either operating or planning to enter service) and 9 new submarine cables pending for submarine cable landing license.

 

Virginia Beach is now a hot site for submarine cable landing, hosting MAREA, BRUSA, SAEx1 and Dunant submarine cable systems.

Microsoft and Facebook partner with Telxius to land its 160Tbps MAREA cable system at the Virginia Beach Cable Landing Station (CLS) site at 1900 Corporate Landing Parkway in Virginia Beach.

Telxius also lands its private cable BRUSA at the Virginia Beach Cable Landing Station (CLS) site at 1900 Corporate Landing Parkway in Virginia Beach.

ACA International LLC, the landing party in the US for the South Atlantc Express (SAEx1) bought 10 acres in Corporate Landing Business Park to build a cable landing station and data center there. 

Google announced to land its second private and non-telecom Dunant submarine cable system at Virginia Beach.

Seaborn Networks plans to extend its Seabras-1 cable system with a branch to Virginia Beach.

Why Virginia Beach becomes hot for submarine cable landing?

The main reason is a more diverse route across the Atlantic and a direct interconnection between Europe and the Ashburn/Dulles datacenter hub. The city has established two diverse terrestrial landing routes: Camp Pendleton, this route is complete and was built for Telxius’ MAREA and BRUSA cables, the second, Sandbridge, which is on the drawing board ready for future needs.

The second is the favourable taxation policies. In December of 2017, Virginia Beach slashed its tax rate on computers and data center equipment to $0.40 per $100 of assessed value, currently the most competitive equipment tax breaks in the U.S. 

Although NYC is still hosting most of the Atlantic cable systems. Virginia is hotter now, as Virginia State is the home of one of the US’s large Internet hub, Ashburn, Virginia. More than 16 large datacenters and more than 60 smaller datacenters in the state.

Guam is a natural hub and communication gateway for trans-Pacific telecommunications. On this 212-square-mile island, Guam arguably has one of the most extensive telecom infrastructures in the Asia Pacific region and most areas throughout the United States. 

There are following cable landing stations in Guam: 

  • Tanguisson cable landing station:  CUCN, AAG, AJC and Guam-Philippine
  • Tumon Bay cable landing station: TPC-5, AJC and Pacrim West
  • Tata Piti cable landing station: TGN-Pacific, TGN-IA and PPC-1
  • GTA Piti-I cable landing station: SEA-US, JGA South
  • GNC neutral cable landing station and data center: HK-G, JGA North, SxS

There are 7 cable landing stations in Hawaii Islands, including

Cable landing stations in the Big Island:

  • Kawaihae Cable Landing Station(Hawaiian Telecom): Honotua cable system
  • Spencer Beach Cable Landing Station(Hawaiian Telecom): Southern Cross cable system, and

Cable landing stations in Honolulu - Oahu Island:

  • Kahe Point Cable Landing Station(Hawaiian Telecom): Southern Cross
  • Makaha Cable Landing Station (AT&T): Japan-US CN
  • Makaha Cable Landing Station (Hawaiian Telecom): SEA-US
  • Keawaula Cable Landing Station(AT&T): TPC-5, Telstra Endeavour, AAG and ASH (American Samoa Hawaii Cable)
  • Kapolei Cable Landing Station (DRFortress): Hawaiki Cable