Transatlantic Tech Bridge: Digital Infrastructure and Subsea Cables, a US Perspective

March 07, 2024

This paper is part of the project “Building a transatlantic technology bridge: challenges and opportunities," from the Istituto Affari Internazionali, funded by Fondazione Compagnia di San PaoloThe goal of this project is to analyze current initiatives that aim to strengthen and broaden transatlantic dialogue and cooperation on the challenges posed by technological development, with particular attention to digitalization and energy transition. In particular, the project will investigate to what extent existing cooperation initiatives can decrease transatlantic trade and technology-related tensions and support a common evaluation of the risks and opportunities deriving from technological development; favor a shared EU-US strategic and policy approach; and lay the ground for new joint initiatives to face the transatlantic partners’ main international rivals. 

The importance of digital infrastructure for global communication and connectivity is only growing. Within this varied sector, subsea cables play a central role in ensuring seamless internet traffic globally. What are the US’s strategic and economic interests in digital infrastructure, particularly subsea cables? Within the context of larger economic and geopolitical competition, US policy is multifaceted, from aiming to secure the physical security of infrastructure and guarding against espionage and technology leakage, to boosting economic competitiveness and supporting domestic firms.

Overall, digital infrastructure, and undersea cables in particular, are a key element of a larger US strategy of outcompeting China. Although evaluations among allies of the relative threat posed by China and Chinese-owned digital infrastructure vary, broadly shared goals of resiliency, security, and increased connectivity mean there are potential areas for deeper EU-US cooperation, including partnerships with third countries, that align with their respective strategic visions and represent a solid base for further transatlantic coordination.

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