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Internet traffic threatened as Malaysia blocks undersea cable repairs

undersea cables
Planned maintenance of the cable began last month. The cable started operating again on Sunday evening, but later a technical fault caused another outage, a PSE spokesperson said.

Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon are seeking to meet Malaysia’s prime minister to ask that foreign vessels be allowed to repair undersea cables in its waters, a Google spokesperson said on Saturday.

Malaysia Internet Exchange (MyIX) said 98 per cent of internet traffic runs on subsea cables. Reuters did not have details on when and how the cables were damaged or what impact the damage has had on communications but

The tech giants sent a letter on Wednesday to the office of the new premier, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, to discuss Malaysia’s cabotage policy, seeking the reinstatement of an exemption revoked last year under the previous government, said the spokesperson for Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google.

Cabotage rules regulate activities in a country’s waters.

MylX is representing the the tech giants, taking the lead on engaging with the government.

MyIX chairman Chiew Kok Hin said the situation would be different if the domestic industry was more developed, with several companies having the required cable repair capabilities.

“Where’s the harm in allowing tech giants to continue using foreign vessels for repair works while facilitating transfer of knowledge so the local industry can develop,” Chiew told Reuters via email, adding that there was only one Malaysian company in the industry and it lacked the capability.

Facebook Inc (FB.O), Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and Inc (AMZN.O) did not immediately respond to Reuters queries on the letter. Nor did the Prime Minister’s Office or the Transport Ministry.

The ministry last November overturned the exemption, granted in 2019, allowing non-Malaysian ships to carry out repairs to submarine cables. The tech giants also wrote to the then-premier, Muhyiddin Yassin, seeking to reinstate the waiver.

Ismail Sabri took over as prime minister two weeks ago after Muhyiddin lost his parliamentary majority.

The tech group said it was “very concerned” about last year’s decision.

“This exemption had ensured that submarine cable repair works could be conducted efficiently within a short time frame, thus minimising the duration and economic impact of cable disruptions,” they said.

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