FCC bans China Telecom from operating US services

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The FCC has actioned a Trump-era recommendation to ban China Telecom from operating services in the United States.

China Telecom Americas is based in Virginia and sells mobile services which target Chinese Americans, tourists, and businesses.

In April last year, the Trump administration’s Justice Department recommended that the FCC revoked China Telecom Americas authorisations to provide international telecoms services to and from the US. The department went on to note that China Telecom Americas is the US subsidiary of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) state-owned telecommunications company.

“Today, more than ever, the life of the nation and its people runs on our telecommunications networks,” said John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, at the time. 

“The security of our government and professional communications, as well as of our most private data, depends on our use of trusted partners from nations that share our values and our aspirations for humanity.”

In an announcement today, the FCC says that it has terminated China Telecom’s license in the US and that it has not been given 60 days to stop providing its services.

“China Telecom Americas, a US subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned enterprise, is subject to exploitation, influence, and control by the Chinese government and is highly likely to be forced to comply with Chinese government requests without sufficient legal procedures subject to independent judicial oversight,” the FCC claims.

“China Telecom Americas’ ownership and control by the Chinese government raise significant national security and law enforcement risks by providing opportunities for China Telecom Americas, its parent entities, and the Chinese government to access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute US communications, which in turn allow them to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the United States.”

The FCC claims China Telecom was given ample opportunity but “failed to rebut the serious concerns” raised

In a statement, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said:

“The Federal Communications Commission has a long history of working to open American markets to foreign telecommunications companies when doing so is in the public interest. These connections can make us stronger because they help share our democratic values with the rest of the world.

But we also recognise not every connection is consistent with the national security interest of the United States. That’s because some countries may seek to exploit our openness to advance their own national interests.

When we recognise this is the case and cannot mitigate the risk, we need to take action to protect the communications infrastructure that is so critical to our national security and economic prosperity.”

The FCC’s decision follows the delisting of China Telecom – along with China Mobile and China Unicom – from the New York Stock Exchange in January.

(Photo by Issy Bailey on Unsplash)

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