International Submarine Cables and Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction

The Cloud Beneath the Sea


If one uses Facebook, Facetime, Skype, Netflix, or any application of the internet internationally, a submarine cable is involved. Fibre optic cables bind the world together and computer server farms, maintained by major telecom and content companies, allow vast amounts of data to be stored and retrieved from the cloud. Not often appreciated is the fact that these server locations worldwide are connected by submarine fibre optic cables. In this sense, the cloud is beneath the sea. While submarine communication cables have been in steady use since 1850, their preeminent place in the modern world has never been as dominant and personal as now. Recently, calls have mounted in the context of marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) for centralized control of submarine cables and for express or de facto diminishment of the freedoms related to them via the United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea, that have served the world’s peoples for so long. In International Submarine Cables and Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, Douglas R. Burnett and Lionel Carter examine the time proven importance of the existing international treaties, the largely peer-reviewed science on the environmental interaction of submarine cables with high seas environments, and the current submarine cable issues in the context of the BBNJ debates.
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Douglas R. Burnett is Maritime Partner at the law firm Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP. Since 1999 he has been the International law advisor to the International Cable Committee (ICPC). He has worked with various aspects of submarine cables for over 32 years. He has been a lecturer on several occasions at the Rhodes Academy and is currently the Chairman of the International Law of the Sea Sub-committee of the Maritime Law Association of the United States. He holds the rank of Captain, U.S. Navy (ret.)

Lionel Carter, Ph.D. (1970), University of British Columbia, is Professor of Marine Geology at Victoria University of Wellington. He has published extensively on sediment dynamics and ocean change together with outcomes of research into subsea telecommunications and power cables and their interaction with the marine environment.
All practitioners and academics interested in submarine cables, International Law of the Sea, and marine biodiversity law.
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