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US communications regulator issues show cause notice to four Chinese telecom companies

M. Ramesh | | Updated on: Apr 25, 2020
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The US Federal Communications Commission, on Friday, issued show cause notice to four Chinese companies – Chinese Telecom Americas, China Unicom Americas, Pacific Networks and ComNet, all ultimately owned by the Chinese government, directing them to “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.”

In a press release, the FCC has said that the action “builds on” the FCC’s earlier rejection of China Mobile USA’s application to provide telecommunications services between the US and foreign destinations.

On May 9, 2019, the FCC had said in a statement that China Mobile USA had “not demonstrated that its application is in the public interest.” The statement further said that the approving China Mobile USA’s application would “raise substantial and serious national security and law enforcement risks that cannot be addressed through a mitigation agreement between China Mobile and the federal government.”

FCC’s Friday press release on show cause notice quotes the FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, as saying that foreign entities providing or seeking to provide telecom services in the US “must not pose a risk to our national security.”

“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.”

Tellingly, Pai says, “We simply cannot take a risk and hope for the best when it comes to the security of our networks.”

The Chinese companies have 30 days to respond.

The order has been widely welcomed by the American administrators and political leaders. Welcoming the show cause notice, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks notes that as countries around the world fight the Covid-19 pandemic and hence rely ever more on communications networks “we’ve never had a greater need to ensure the security of these communications.”

Senator Tom Cotton, of the Republican party from the state of Arkansas, observed that the Chinese firms “are beholden to the Chinese Communist Party and their operations in the US will continue to pose a threat to our critical networks as long as it continues.”

Tom Cotton has been leading the campaign to punish China for the COVID-19 outbreak.

Recently, he along with Congressman Dan Crenshaw, introduced a legislation named ‘Forging Operational Resistance to Chinese Expansion Act’, which has now become known as the FORCE Act, which calls for $43 billion spending on military infrastructure. “The bill will help thwart the Chinese Communist Party’s main geopolitical aim in the wake of the China virus: pushing the United States out of the Western Pacific, intimidating its neighbors, and achieving cross-strait unification with Taiwan via military force,” an April 22 press release from the Senator’s office said.

Earlier this month, Senator Cotton had asked the FCC to revoke and terminate China Telecom (Americas) Corp.’s authority to provide telecommunications services to and from the United States.

Brigadier General Robert Spalding (Retd), a Mandarin speaking China expert, former US Air Force pilot and former U.S. Senior Defense Official and Defense Attaché to China, Beijing, said in an interview last November, “I guarantee you, the Chinese are in our networks.” This, he said, gave the Chinese government access to American people’s private data.

Earlier, the US (along with Australia and New Zealand) had blocked the use of the Chinese firm, Huawei’s equipment in their 5G infrastructure. In December 2018, Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Canada “over possible violation of sanctions against Iran.”

Published on April 25, 2020

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