May 19, 2024

US company settles probe into America Mobil submarine cable system

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said Tuesday it has closed two investigations into the America Mobil submarine cable system connecting the United States to Colombia and Costa Rica.

The commission said the undersea cable connections were made without the approval of a US government panel known as the commission, or “Team Telecom,” which prevented a required national security review.

The FCC said LATAM Telecommunications and Puerto Rico Telephone Company will each pay $1 million in civil penalties after admitting violations and agreeing to implement a compliance program.

The US government has been scrutinizing undersea cable connections in recent years, particularly with China. About 300 submarine cables form the backbone of the Internet and carry 99% of the world’s data traffic.

Puerto Rico Telephone Company, doing business as Claro Puerto Rico, declined to comment. LATAM Telecom did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Submarine cables connect us around the world and are an essential part of the digital economy. But they pose a real security risk if the FCC and its national security partners don’t have a chance to examine where new cables might be laid.” FCC Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel said.

Construction of the cable landing on Isla San Andrés in Colombia began in March 2020 and became operational in September 2021, the FCC said. A cable dock in Puerto Limón, Costa Rica began operations in November 2022. Both connect to the America Mobil subsea cable system, but neither company has applied for FCC approval until 2023, he added.

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The FCC approved Puerto Rico Telephone and LATAM in 2013 for the America Mobil high-capacity undersea fiber optic cable system connecting the United States to Central and South America, but it has not approved more recent connections. The FCC did not accuse America Movil of wrongdoing.

The FCC said the penalties were far greater than previous actions related to submarine cables, “reflecting the importance of data security issues in the national security arena.” (Reporting by David Shepherdson; Editing by Franklin Ball and Sandra Maler)