US Senate criticises FCC oversight of Chinese operators

The historical activities, or lack of, by the US telecoms regulator with respect to the presence of Chinese operators in the country have been investigated.

The Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is the chief oversight committee of the U.S. Senate. It has just published a detailed report titled THREATS TO U.S. NETWORKS: OVERSIGHT OF CHINESE GOVERNMENT-OWNED CARRIERS. The investigation was prompted by the FCC’s decision to block China Mobile from operating in the US, after which the committee decided it was time to have a general look at such considerations.

“This report details how the U.S. federal government, particularly the FCC, DOJ and DHS, historically exercised minimal oversight to safeguard U.S. telecommunications networks against risks posed by Chinese state-owned carriers,” announces the executive summary. It notes that said agencies have suddenly raised their game on this matter since the investigation started.

“The Subcommittee examined how American taxpayers have been unwittingly funding the rise of China’s economy and military over the last two decades while federal agencies have done little to stop it,” the report continues. It talks of US-based researchers being ‘incentivized’ to hand over US tax-payer funder intellectual property to China and the US government not really doing anything about it. Additionally, it notes Chinese state involvement in the Equifax and Marriott data breaches.

At the top of its recommendations it notes that: “Team Telecom [federal telecoms experts] has recommended that China Telecom Americas’ authorizations be revoked because of ‘substantial and unacceptable’ national security concerns.” It’s presumably not a coincidence that China Telecom lobbied the FCC not to do so yesterday.

This seems to mark a further escalation by the US state of its hostility to the Chinese telecoms sector. Since US attitudes to all Chinese companies now seems to be informed by the assumption that any of them can be co-opted by the Chinese state at any time, it seems like a matter of time before all Chinese companies are banned from operating in the US.

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