Facebook has given up on a project to lay more than 8,000 miles of fiber-optic cable along the seabed to link California with Hong Kong.
The Wall Street Journal was the first to report that Facebook was abandoning the plan, known as the Hong Kong-Americas (HKA) project.
A Facebook spokesperson told the Journal the tech giant was withdrawing from the project because of political pressure from the US government.
Facebook had withdrawn an application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “due to ongoing concerns from the US government about direct communications links between the United States and Hong Kong,” the spokesperson said.
“We look forward to working with all the parties to reconfigure the system to meet the concerns of the US government,” they added — though they did not elaborate on what reconfiguring the project might involve.
The HKA project was originally proposed in 2018 by a consortium made up of Facebook and several Chinese companies including China Telecom. The plan was for the fiber-optic cable to link up two sites in California with a site in Hong Kong and a site in Taiwan.
This is the third time in six months Facebook has withdrawn a proposal for an undersea cable linking the US with China.
A proposed joint Facebook-Google undersea cable called the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) was withdrawn in September 2020 due to national security concerns from the Trump administration.
Facebook also withdrew a proposal with Amazon to link San Francisco with Hong Kong – called the Bay to Bay Express Cable – in September 2020.
These withdrawals came after a Department of Justice committee made a recommendation to the FCC against a direct link to Hong Kong, citing Beijing’s sweeping crackdowns on the region.
In August last year, the Trump administration also drew up broad plans to wall off the US from the Chinese internet, with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claiming undersea cables were a potential point of entry for Chinese state espionage.