Why Italy’s G7 is Focusing on Securing Undersea Communication Networks

Italy's G7 agenda emphasizes safeguarding undersea communication networks, crucial for global data and facing increased threats.By Paolo Messa, Atlantic Council
April 25, 2024

In less than two months, Group of Seven (G7) leaders will gather in Italy for their annual summit, where crises in the Middle East and Ukraine are sure to be high on the agenda. But the leaders should make time to forge a common path forward on an urgent global issue that is largely hidden out of sight—undersea cables.

These undersea cables carry over 95 percent of international data traffic, underpinning everything from financial transactions to military operations. Policymakers must address the unique challenges of this domain and develop strategic approaches to protecting it.

Recent incidents highlight the potential dangers. For instance, a Red Sea cable was recently damaged in an incident that remains under investigation, with some reports suggesting deliberate action, while the White House has maintained that it was accidental. However, there’s no doubt about the growing concern surrounding state-sponsored sabotage, criminal activity targeting infrastructure, and the potential for espionage through physical tampering with cables.

China’s significant investments in undersea cable infrastructure as part of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have raised worries about Beijing’s potential dominance and control over global communication networks. As shown by its “Great Firewall,” China does not believe in an open internet. Controlling the means of distribution could help spread this vision further. The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor offers a promising alternative, aiming to strengthen connectivity and trade while establishing robust undersea cable networks that prioritize these crucial aspects.

The Humboldt subsea cable route, connecting Chile to Australia via French Polynesia, demonstrates another significant step toward enhanced global connectivity and diversification of undersea infrastructure. This project, announced by the Chilean government and Google, underscores the importance of fostering partnerships and investments beyond Western powers.

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