According to FCC public notices, the FCC granted a Special Temporary Authority (STA) on Wednesday April 8,2020, allowing Google to begin commercial operation of limited portions of the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) connecting the United States with Taiwan. The STA for the commercial operation of PLCN US-Taiwan segment is valid for 180 days, expiring on October 5, 2020. The grant of authority by the FCC is followed a petition from the Department of Justice concerning Google LLC’s application to operate the PLCN subsea cable on Wednesday. 

The Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) is designed to connect Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines and the US, with a total length of about 13000km, jointly invested and built by Facebook, Google and PLDC which is a subsidiary of Beijing-based Dr. Peng. Google owns one fiber pair in PLCN Hong Kong to the US directly and with a branching unit to Taiwan on this fiber pair.

On April 2, Google (through its subsidiary GU Holdings Inc.) filed the FCC a Request for Special Temporary Authority (“STA”) to begin commercial operation of limited portions of the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) prior to the FCC’s grant of the pending application for a license to construct, land, and operate the entire PLCN system.

In its application for the STA, Google sought 180-day STA to begin operating the following portions of PLCN connecting the United States with Taiwan:

  • The fiber pair owned by GU Holdings and its affiliates connecting the United States to Branching Unit 1 (Fiber Pair 2 on each of Segments S1.1.1 and S.1.1.2);
  • The branch owned by GU Holdings’ affiliates connecting Taiwan to Branching Unit 1, including the two fiber pairs on that branch (Segment S2);
  • Common equipment necessary to operate Fiber Pair 2 between the United States and Taiwan.
PLCN US-Taiwan Activation
Commercial Operation of PLCN US-Taiwan Segment,  Source: FCC Notices

 

Google emphasized in its application for the STA that “an immediate need to meet internal demand for capacity between the U.S. and Taiwan” and that without the sought temporary authority Google would likely have to seek alternative capacity at “significantly higher prices” and that Google is not aware of any national security issues associated with operation of the U.S.-Taiwan segment by GU Holdings.

On Wednesday April 8, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a petition with the FCC concerning Google LLC’s application to operate a subsea cable. On behalf of itself as well as the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense, the DOJ advised the FCC that those agencies do not oppose Google LLC’s application (through its subsidiary GU Holdings Inc.) to operate the segment of the Pacific Light Cable Network System connecting the United States to Taiwan for the next six months, pending a final disposition of the license application, so long as that temporary authority is conditioned on certain obligations. Those obligations are set forth in a Provisional National Security Agreement that was executed by GU Holdings Inc. and the foregoing agencies on April 8, 2020. 

After discussions with Google representatives, the DOJ concluded that the obligations undertaken by Google in the Provisional National Security agreement would be sufficient to preserve their abilities to enforce the law, protect national security, and preserve public safety. 

According to the DOJ, Google has agreed to a range of operational requirements, notice obligations, access and security guarantees, as well as auditing and reporting duties, among others under the terms of the Provisional National Security Agreement. The Provisional National Security Agreement also includes a commitment by Google to “pursue diversification of interconnection points in Asia,” as well as to establish network facilities that deliver traffic “as close as practicable” to its ultimate destination. This term reflects the views of the Executive Branch that a direct cable connection between the United States and Hong Kong would pose an unacceptable risk to the national security and law enforcement interests of the United States.