FCC Orders 4 Chinese Government-Controlled Telecoms to Show Cause

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an order against four Chinese government-controlled telecom companies, including China Telecom Americas, China Unicom Americas, Pacific Networks, and ComNet. The FCC has asked the companies “to explain why the Commission should not start the process of revoking their domestic and international section authorizations enabling them to operate in the United States.” The companies have 30 days to respond. This order expands upon the FCC’s rejection of China Mobile USA’s application to provide telecommunications between the U.S. and foreign countries; the FCC rejected this for national security and law enforcement concerns.

“Foreign entities providing telecommunications services—or seeking to provide services—in the United States must not pose a risk to our national security,” Chairman Ajit Pai said. “The Show Cause Orders reflect our deep concern—one shared by the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State and the U.S. Trade Representative—about these companies’ vulnerability to the exploitation, influence, and control of the Chinese Communist Party, given that they are subsidiaries of Chinese state-owned entities. We simply cannot take a risk and hope for the best when it comes to the security of our networks.”

“With such an unprecedented increase in data traffic, we’ve never had a greater need to ensure the security of these communications,” Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said. “That’s why we must pay even greater attention to whom we permit to interconnect with American communications networks.”

“Over the past few weeks, Americans have learned that they no longer need to page through dusty foreign policy magazines to understand the consequences that flow from communist China’s brutal crackdown on freedom and free speech” Commissioner Brendan Carr said. “The communist party’s silencing of critics and its disappearance of hero doctors and citizen journalists exacerbated the global spread of Covid-19. Americans are now experiencing the consequences of those oppressive actions in their own lives—whether in the loss of their jobs or their kids not being able to attend school due to Covid-19.”

The FCC has given the telecom companies a chance to illustrate that “they are not subject to the influence and control of the Chinese government,” that they are “qualified to hold domestic and international section 214 authorizations and International Signaling Point Codes, and that public convenience and necessity is served by their retention of the authorizations and assignments.” The companies can also provide a response to the allegations in the Executive Branch Recommendation to Revoke.