Tech giants want to meet Ismail on restoring cable repair exemption

KUALA LUMPUR • 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, said a Google spokesman.

The tech giants sent a letter on Wednesday to the office of the new premier, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, to discuss Malaysia's cabotage policy, seeking the reinstatement of an exemption revoked last year under the previous government, said the spokesman for Alphabet's Google yesterday.

Cabotage rules regulate activities in a country's waters.

The tech giants are being represented by Malaysia's national Internet exchange body, Malaysia Internet Exchange (MyIX), which is taking the lead on engaging 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," Mr Chiew told Reuters via e-mail, adding that there was only one Malaysian company in the industry and it lacked the capability.

Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon did not immediately respond to Reuters queries on the letter. Neither did the Prime Minister's Office or 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 then Premier Muhyiddin Yassin, seeking to reinstate the waiver.

"This exemption had ensured that submarine cable repair works could be conducted efficiently within a short timeframe, thus minimising the duration and economic impact of cable disruptions," said the tech group.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 05, 2021, with the headline 'Tech giants want to meet Ismail on restoring cable repair exemption'. Subscribe