People who cause damage to undersea cables resulting in death could face life in prison and a fine of up to NT$100 million (US$3.28 million) under a proposed amendment to the Telecommunications Management Act (電信管理法).
The National Communications Commission proposed the amendment after Chinese vessels allegedly broke two undersea cables linking Taiwan proper and Lienchiang County on Feb. 2 and Feb. 8, disrupting voice communications and Internet services.
The Chinese-language Matsu Daily reported that an international cable maintenance ship arrived on Friday last week and is scheduled to repair one of the damaged cables by this weekend if the weather permits.
Photo: Ting Yi, Taipei Times
While waiting for the undersea cables to be fixed, Chunghwa Telecom was asked by the commission to gradually increase the bandwidth of a microwave signaling system connecting Taipei and Lienchiang County’s Dongyin Island (東引) to maintain voice and Internet services on the island.
Calls to toughen punishments for those caught damaging sea cables increased after the incident.
Currently, people who damage submarine cable landing stations, signal exchange rooms and satellite communications centers, and subsequently place the public in danger, can be sentenced to three to 10 years in prison. There is no penalty for those who damage undersea cables.
Those whose negligence results in the damage of such infrastructure can be sentenced to up to six months in prison or fined up to NT$200,000.
Hsieh Pei-ying (謝佩穎), deputy director of the commission’s Department of Legal Affairs, said that the amendment would hold those who damage undersea cables accountable, adding that the commission consulted the Criminal Code (刑法) and National Security Act (國家安全法) to stipulate clearer and heavier penalties for different types of offenses.
The amendment to Article 72 of the Telecommunications Management Act stipulates that anyone who steals, destroys or uses other illegal means to damage submarine cable landing stations, computer rooms or the cables connected to them, international exchange rooms, or satellite communication centers faces a sentence of one to seven years in prison and a fine of up to NT$5 million.
Those committing the crime with the intention of endangering national security or social stability face a sentence of three to 10 years in prison and a fine of no more than NT$50 million, it says.
The penalties would be 0.5 times heavier if the damage leads to a major disaster, the commission said.
“If the offense leads to death, the sentence would be life imprisonment or fixed-term imprisonment of more than seven years, and a fine of no more than NT$100 million may be imposed,” the commission said. “If a serious personnel injury is caused, the person would be imprisoned for five to 12 years and may also be fined no more than NT$80 million.”
Anyone who negligently destroys, jeopardizes or uses other illegal means to disrupt the operations of the stated infrastructure faces a sentence of no more than six months in prison or a fine of less than NT$2 million.
The commission also proposed adding Article 75-1 to the act to punish those who breach the core information systems of submarine cable landing stations, computer rooms, international exchange rooms or satellite communication centers. They would face a sentence of one to seven years in prison and a fine of up to NT$5 million.
Those who hack core information systems would face the same penalties as those who damage cables or other key infrastructure if their offenses endanger national security or lead to deaths and injuries, the commission said.
The amendment must be approved by the Cabinet before it can be sent to the Legislative Yuan for deliberation, the commission said.
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