ICPC Calls on Governments, Industry to Facilitate, Expedite Submarine Cable Installation and Repair

The International Cable Protection Committee (ICPC) calls on governments and industry to facilitate and expedite the deployment, operation, and repair of submarine fibre optic cables during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to protect increasingly important broadband Internet connectivity and the governance, health, education, and commerce activities that depend on such connectivity, the company said.

Submarine cables are critical Internet infrastructure. Even before the pandemic started, submarine cables (not satellites) carried approximately 99% of the world´s Internet, voice, and data traffic, including backhaul of mobile network traffic and data for credit card and electronic payments. Governments have therefore been long treating submarine cables as critical infrastructure.

Continuing installation and repair during the pandemic are vital. Submarine cables have now assumed even greater importance for governments, businesses, educational institutions, and individuals and families by supporting electronic and online engagement that help minimise disease exposure and transmission, including:

Communication of government policies and public health information for COVID-19;
Telework and online meetings for business and government agency personnel, particularly video conferencing;
Electronic commerce, for online purchases for sustenance, medicine, and critical supplies
Tele-medicine for COVID-19 and other health issues;
Tele-education while school and university campuses remain closed;
Communications with family members and friends by voice, video, photos, and messages;
Entertainment to ease the stresses of home quarantine and self-isolation.

The ICPC estimates that Internet traffic has increased between 25% and 50%, depending on geographic region, since November 2019, and will surely increase further. Speedy repair of existing submarine cables (which are most commonly damaged by ship anchors and fishing nets) and construction of new submarine cables to meet massive increases in Internet traffic are necessary to avoid service disruption, degradation, and slower speeds–which would impair government, health, education, and commerce activities.

The International Cable Protection Committee was formed in 1958 and its primary goal is to promote the safeguarding of international submarine cables against man-made and natural hazards. The organisation provides a forum for the exchange of technical, legal and environmental information about submarine cables and, with over 180 Members from over 60 nations, including cable operators, owners, manufacturers, industry service providers, as well as governments.