Team Telecom, officially the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector, has recommended that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) deny an application by ARCOS-1 USA Inc. and A.SurNet Inc. subsea cable system (ARCOS-1 Cable System) to modify the system by adding an additional segment directly connected to the United States through a new landing station in Cojimar, Cuba.
The ARCOS-1 Cable System is a 8,700 km submarine cable system connecting 24 landing points in 15 countries, including the United States, the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Curacao, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Belize, and Mexico. The system was ready for service in 2001, and is now owned by a comsortium comprising ARCOS-1 USA, Inc and its wholly-owned direct subsidiary A.SurNet, Inc, together with other 18 international carriers. ARCOS-1 USA, Inc is now a member of Liberty Latin America Ltd. A.SurNet owns and operates the ARCOS-1 cable landing station in North Miami Beach, Florida.
In June 2018, ARCOS-1 USA filed the FCC an application to add a branch to Cuba and a cable landing station in Cojimar, Cuba (ARCOS-1 Cuba Extension), to be supplied by SubCom. Accroding to the appilication, Columbus Networks Limited (“CNL”) or a wholly-owned and controlled subsidiary of CNL will be the landing party in Cojimar, Cuba. Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA), the incumbent, state-owned telecommunications provider in Cuba, will act as the landing parter to provide the Cojimar Cable Landing Station and related facilities. The ARCOS-1 Cuba Extension will be jointly owned by CNL and some of the ARCOS consortium members. ETECSA has no ownership on the ARCOS-1 Cuba Extension or other portions of the ARCOS-1 Cable System. In stead, ETECSA will acquire from CNL an indefeasible right of use (IRU) on some capacity on the ARCOS-1 Cuba Extension.
The above application was modified and refiled in September 2021.
Unfortunately, the US Government authority, Team Telecom, recommended in the end of November 2022 that the FCC deny the application due to national security concerns, as the cable-landing system in Cuba would be owned and controlled by ETECSA, Cuba’s state-owned telecommunications monopoly. The United States recognizes the Cuba Government as authoritarian and a foreign adversary of the United States. The US Government concerns that the Cuba Government could access sensitive U.S. data traversing the new cable segment through its control of ETECSA.
Earlier in June 2020, Team Telecom recommended the FCC partially deny the PLCN cable landing license application, blocking its connection between the United States and Hong Kong and its Chinese owners, due to national security concerns.
“The United States supports an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable internet around the world, including in Cuba. Unfortunately, the Cuban government does not share that view,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “As long as the Government of Cuba poses a counterintelligence threat to the United States, and partners with others who do the same, the risks to our critical infrastructure are simply too great.”
The Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector was established in April 2020 pursuant to Executive Order 13913 and is led by the Department of Justice’s National Security Division, Foreign Investment Review Section. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense are fellow members of the Committee.