FCC tells China Telecom it will share confidential docs with other agencies

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The FCC has notified China Telecom that it will share documents the operator issued in confidentiality.

State-owned China Telecom has been authorised to operate in the US since 2001, but has found itself subject to increased scrutiny in recent months.

The US Justice Department and other federal agencies have recommended that the FCC revokes China Telecom’s license due to concerns including “inaccurate public representations by China Telecom concerning its cybersecurity practices”, “its vulnerability to state exploitation for economic espionage and disruption and misrouting of US communications”, and “the Chinese government’s role in malicious cyber activity that threatens US national security.”

Ge Yi, Director of Corporate Communications at China Telecom Americas, denied those allegations and has argued:

“The company has always been extremely cooperative and transparent with regulators.

In many instances, we have gone beyond what has been requested to demonstrate how our business operates and serves our customers following the highest international standard.”

China Telecom does not want to be kicked out of America and the FCC has acknowledged that it has received plenty of confidential paperwork from the operator about its US operations.

Naturally, other US federal agencies want to see these documents.

Shortly after China Telecom sent the confidential documents to the FCC, the US Justice Department requested copies with the intention of sharing the documents within the government. 

China Telecom objected to the request but the FCC highlights in a notice that the law “does not prohibit the commission from disclosing that information to other federal government agencies where those agencies will continue to keep the information confidential.”

The FCC goes on to mention that other US agencies are on a committee known as Team Telecom. The role of the committee is to provide oversight of the regulator’s handling of matters such as the one with China Telecom, where national security may be at risk. In order to function, the committee members require access to the submitted documents.

“The threats of attacks on our critical telecom infrastructure and illegal spying rise as our reliance on those networks rises,” said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, following the establishment of Team Telecom.

Federal agencies will undoubtedly scour the documents from China Telecom for any of the aforementioned “inaccurate” representations which may help to build a case against the company.

China Telecom has around a week to file another appeal.

You can find the FCC’s full letter to China Telecom here (PDF)

(Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash)

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