FCC Adds Telecoms China Unicom and PacNet/ComNet to National Security Threat List

On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau included two new entities, Pacific Network Corp. and its wholly-owned subsidiary ComNet USA LLC (PacNet/ComNet) and China Unicom Americas Operations Limited, on its list of communications equipment and service providers deemed a national security threat.

The decision follows others made in recent months and years banning Chinese telecoms from operating on domestic soil. In January, the FCC revoked China Unicom and PacNet/ComNet’s authorities to provide service because of their subordination to the Chinese government.

This week’s decision was based on similar findings by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration as well as the Department of Justice, in coordination with the Department of Defense, that PacNet/ComNet and China Unicom are subject to the Chinese government’s “exploitation, influence, and control.”

With respect to China Unicom, the government highlighted its concern with the Chinese government’s escalation of “malicious cyber activities” since the telecom’s authorization to provide international common carrier services in 2002. As a wholly-owned subsidiary of the People’s Republic of China, the executive agencies said that it has been flagged as engaging in commercial relationships with Chinese entities accused of acting against the American national security and economic interests.

“China Unicom’s American operations provide opportunity to facilitate Chinese cyber activities including economic espionage, disruption and misrouting of American communications traffic, and access to U.S. records and other sensitive data,” the public notice added.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel commented that this week’s action, undertaken in coordinating with the agency’s national security partners, represents “another critical step to protect our communications networks from foreign national security threats.”