FCC Resolves Investigations into Unauthorized Undersea Cable Connections by America Movil

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it has resolved two investigations into unauthorized undersea cable connections made by the America Movil Submarine Cable System, linking the United States with Colombia and Costa Rica.
US FCC Chair Jessica RosenworcelThe FCC revealed that these undersea cables were installed without the necessary approvals from the commission or a U.S. government committee known as “Team Telecom,” which is responsible for reviewing national security concerns. This oversight bypassed critical security assessments required for such international communications infrastructure.

As a result of the violations, LATAM Telecommunications and Puerto Rico Telephone Company (operating as Claro Puerto Rico) have each agreed to pay a $1 million civil penalty. Both companies admitted to the violations and have consented to enter into a compliance plan to prevent future infractions.

In recent years, the U.S. government has heightened its scrutiny of undersea cable connections, particularly those involving China. These cables form the backbone of the global internet, handling 99 percent of the world’s data traffic.

“Undersea cables keep us globally connected and are an essential part of the digital economy. But they can pose real security risks if the FCC and its national security partners aren’t properly given the chance to review where new cables may be installed,” stated FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

The investigations revealed that construction began on a cable landing station in Isla San Andres, Colombia, in March 2020, which became operational in September 2021. Similarly, a cable landing station in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, started operations in November 2022. Both stations connected to the America Movil Submarine Cable System, yet neither company sought FCC authorization until 2023.

The FCC had initially granted authorization to Puerto Rico Telephone and LATAM Telecommunications in 2013 for the America Movil undersea high-capacity fiber-optic cable system connecting the United States to Central and South America. However, the recent connections were not covered under this authorization. The FCC did not accuse America Movil of any wrongdoing.

The FCC emphasized that the penalties imposed are significantly larger than previous actions involving undersea cables, reflecting the increasing importance of data security in national security considerations.