Chilean government partners with Google to launch Asia-Pacific fiber optic link

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – The Chilean government announced a partnership with Alphabet’s Google on Wednesday to build the first undersea fiber-optic cable between South America and Asia Pacific.

The Humboldt Cable Project will connect Chile’s port city of Valparaiso with Sydney, Australia through 14,800 kilometers (9,200 miles) of fiber-optic cable with a capacity of 144 terabytes and a 25-year lifespan, according to a government press release.

“This cable will consolidate Chile’s position as the center of digital activity in South America,” President Gabriel Boric said during a press conference in Valparaiso.

He added that the project would “open opportunities for new industries, jobs and better work and life conditions for thousands of people.”

The announcement comes at a time when China and the United States have been battling for economic and political influence in Latin America, with undersea cables being central to the technology competition.

A Reuters investigation found that various undersea fiber-optic cable projects to Asia, including two in which Google was an investor, were originally supposed to link to China but were thwarted or re-routed due to U.S. diplomatic pressure.

Aside from technology competition, U.S. authorities worried about the possibility of spy agencies intercepting data on the planned undersea cables.

China President Xi Jingping touted his country’s strong ties with Chile during a diplomatic visit last October, while U.S. President Joe Biden pledged to strengthen economic ties with Latin America to counter China’s growing influence.

(Reporting by Alexander Villegas; Editing by Bill Berkrot)