Accession to UNCLOS would allow telecommunication companies to prevent damage to underseas cables before it occurs
[ Page 4 ]
Under the 1884 treaty, nations are required to provide criminal and civil sanctions for negligent or intentional actions by third parties which damage a cable. But under the 1884 treaty, the cable owner must wait until the damage is done before these sanctions are triggered. In welcome contrast, under the 1982 Convention, third party conduct which is likely to result in damage is sanctioned in addition to actual damage cases. So the cable owner has a remedy to prevent the injury to critical infrastructure in the first place10. When one considers the average $1M plus cost repair a single cable and the disruption a cable break can cause to essential economic and strategic interests, it is easy to see why U.S. telecommunications companies need the United States to accede to the Convention.
Currently the vital U.S. underseas cable industry has to rely on the outdated 1884 telegraph treaty for its legal basis when defending its rights to lay, maintain, and repair underseas cables. U.S. ratification of UNCLOS would better protect U.S. companies’ existing cable systems and foster additional investments by giving telecommunications the legal certainty to their claims that they need.