The Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector, aka Team Telecom or the Committee, today 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 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.”
As submitted to the FCC, the ARCOS-1 Cable System application would have allowed for the only direct, commercial subsea cable connection between the United States and Cuba. This raised national security concerns, as the cable-landing system in Cuba would be owned and controlled by Cuba’s state-owned telecommunications monopoly, Empresa de Telecommunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA). The Government of Cuba – which the United States recognizes as authoritarian and a foreign adversary of the United States – could access sensitive U.S. data traversing the new cable segment through its control of ETECSA.
The Committee’s recommendation was based on factors including the following:
- The Government of Cuba has long represented a significant counterintelligence threat to the United States by virtue of its espionage and other intelligence activities targeting the United States. Directly connecting an undersea cable from the United States to Cuba, where a Cuban state-owned company would have exclusive use of the cable, control over that cable’s Cuban landing station, and remote access to traffic on it, could advance the Cuban government’s intelligence objectives by giving it direct access to the U.S. persons’ communications and sensitive data traversing the cable.
- This risk of access is not limited to U.S. traffic destined for Cuba. There are several ways in which traffic destined for places outside Cuba, which otherwise would not traverse Cuban networks, could nonetheless be misrouted by ETECSA or otherwise re-routed over this cable into Cuban territory and the Cuban government’s hands.
- These risks are exacerbated by the Cuban government’s relationships with other foreign adversaries, including the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. The Cuban government could share any information collected from this cable with those foreign adversaries – thereby advancing additional counterintelligence efforts by foreign adversaries against the United States.
Subsea fiber optic cable systems are a critical national security asset and carry most of the world’s internet, voice and data traffic between continents. Although the United States supports the Cuban people’s access to an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable internet, the Committee found that this particular license application pertains to a cable landing that presents unacceptable risks to U.S. national security and law enforcement interests that cannot be mitigated.
The Committee was established 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. The Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration filed the recommendation on behalf of the Executive Branch.
More information concerning the Committee’s recommendation is available on the FCC’s International Bureau Filing System (IBFS), under Docket Number SCL-MOD-20210928-00039