FCC Moves Towards Banning Three Chinese Telecom Firms

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US regulatory move by the FCC signals that the tough US stance against China under the Joe Biden administration is unlikely to change

The US administration of Joe Biden has sent a clear signal to Chinese authorities that its stance against the Asian nation is unlikely to change.

On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) it has begun efforts to revoke US operating licences for three Chinese firms, namely China Unicom Americas, as well as Pacific Networks and its wholly-owned subsidiary ComNet.

This move is a blow to Chinese officials, who had hoped that relations with the United States that had been strained under the Presidency of Donald Trump, would improve under President Joe Biden.

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National security

The American communications regulator made clear that its national security concerns about the three entities had not been addressed.

It says that all three are owned by the Chinese state.

It comes after the outgoing head of the FCC Ajit Pai in January warned of the ongoing threat posed by China to US telecoms networks.

“Pacific Networks and ComNet are indirectly and ultimately owned and controlled by the government of the People’s Republic of China,” said the FCC this week. “The Commission has raised concerns regarding the vulnerability of subsidiaries of Chinese state-owned entities to the exploitation, influence, and control of the Chinese government.”

“As part of this effort, the FCC ordered Pacific Networks and ComNet last year to show cause why the Commission should not start a process for revoking and terminating their domestic and international section 214 authorizations,” it said.

The FCC said that its staff had “reviewed the companies’ response as well as comments from Executive Branch agencies that identified a number of significant national security and law enforcement concerns.”

“Today, the Commission determined that Pacific Networks and ComNet have failed at this stage to dispel serious concerns regarding their retention of section 214 authority in the United States,” it said. “

Accordingly, today’s action starts the process to determine whether the present and future public interest, convenience, and necessity warrant revocation of Pacific Networks’ and ComNet’s domestic 214 authority and revocation and/or termination of Pacific Networks’ and ComNet’s international section 214 authorizations.”

This echoes the FCC statement about China Unicom.

US blacklisting

It should be noted that the FCC has already begun similar proceedings to revoke the authorisation of China Telecom, which has had US authorisation for nearly 20 years.

In addition, the FCC noted that many Chinese telecom carriers also own data centres operating within the United states, but it has no powers in this regard.

The FCC also revoked China Mobile licence last year, removing its ability to operate in the US market.

Chinese firms such as Huawei and ZTE have already been blacklisted in the US (although ZTE has since been allowed to do some business in the US).

Other Chinese firms designated as threats to national security include Hytera Communications, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co and Dahua Technology Co.

Cable concerns

National security concerns have also been raised about the Pacific Light Cable Network (PLCN) cable, which has been funded by Google and Facebook, as well as a Chinese investor.

The PLCN was intended to not only just connect Los Angeles and Hong Kong, but also connect the US to both Taiwan and the Philippines.

The FCC was concerned that the cables its Chinese investor allegedly had links to Chinese intelligence services. The FCC was concerned by the direct link to Hong Kong.

Google has been approved to use part of the cable, but not to Hong Kong.

Last week, Facebook withdrew an application to use the cable, citing ongoing concerns from the US government about direct communications links.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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