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, a Google spokesperson said on Saturday. The tech giants sent a letter on Wednesday to the office ofthe new premier, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, to discuss Malaysia's cabotage policy, seeking the reinstatement of an exemption revoked last year under the previous government, said the spokesperson for Alphabet Inc's Google. 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), whichis taking the lead on engaging with the government. MyIX chairman Chiew Kok Hin said the situation would be different if the domestic industry was more developed, withseveral 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 ofknowledge so the local industry can develop," Chiew told Reuters via email, adding that there was only one Malaysian company inthe industry and it lacked the capability. Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corp and Amazon.comInc did not immediately respond to Reuters queries onthe letter. Nor did the Prime Minister's Office or the TransportMinistry. The ministry last November overturned the exemption, granted in 2019, allowing non-Malaysian ships tocarry out repairs to submarine cables. The tech giants alsowrote to the then-premier, Muhyiddin Yassin, seeking toreinstate the waiver.
Ismail Sabri took over prime minister two weeks ago after Muhyiddin lost hisparliamentary majority. The tech group said it was "very concerned" about lastyear's decision. "This exemption had ensured that submarine cable repairworks could be conducted efficiently within a short time frame,thus minimising the duration and economic impact of cabledisruptions," they said. Reuters did not have details on when and how the cables weredamaged or what impact the damage has had on communications but MyIX said 98% of internet traffic runs on subsea cables.