The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced that it will revoke the authorizations of three Chinese telecom companies operating in the United States: China Unicom Americas, Pacific Networks, and its wholly-owned subsidiary, ComNet.
The FCC voted unanimously on the decision. Some experts view the development as a signal that President Biden will continue Trump’s aggressive approach to the threat posed by communist Chinese tech companies.
The federal agency stated that the companies failed to “dispel serious concerns” about their authorizations to work in the U.S. and explain ties with Beijing, thereby presenting national security risks. In April last year, the FCC had asked the three firms to describe their relationship with the Chinese government. The companies did reply, but the FCC is unsatisfied with their answers.
“The threat to our networks from entities aligned with Communist China is one that we must address head-on, and I am pleased that the FCC continues to show the strength and resolve necessary to meet this menace,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said in a statement.
FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks warned that several Chinese telecom carriers also own data centers in the U.S. and that the agency presently lacks the necessary authority to deal with this “potential national security threat.”
Communist China’s foreign ministry criticized the decision, accusing the agency of hurting Chinese business competitors by misusing security complaints. Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian asked Washington to stop politicizing economic issues and abusing state power to suppress Chinese enterprises.
Zhao said that Beijing would take “necessary measures” to protect Chinese businesses’ rights. The latest decision came as the two administrations were about to meet in Alaska for the first time since Biden became president.
The FCC had taken action against Chinese telecom companies before
It was not the first time the agency has taken action against Chinese telecom companies. Last December, it began revoking the authorization of the largest Chinese telecom firm that has been operating in the country for almost two decades – China Telecom.
In 2019, the FCC denied CCP-backed China Mobile from operating in the United States, arguing that Beijing could use the telecom company to spy on the U.S.
The FCC recently also classified five Chinese companies as national security threats under a 2019 law seeking to protect American communication networks. The law mandates that the FCC identifies telecom equipment and services that pose a security risk to the United States. The five companies include ZTE, Huawei, Hikvision Digital, Dahua, and Hytera Communications.
“This list provides meaningful guidance that will ensure that as next-generation networks are built across the country, they do not repeat the mistakes of the past or use equipment or services that will pose a threat to U.S. national security or the security and safety of Americans,” FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.
In 2020, the FCC classified ZTE and Huawei as threats to telecom networks. That restriction blocked American companies from spending $8.3 billion in government funds to buy these firms’ equipment. Moreover, the FCC has already established rules asking U.S. carriers to ‘rip and replace’ all equipment from Huawei and ZTE used in their networks.
Lawmakers have sanctioned $1.9 billion to reimburse the companies for this effort. In February, Huawei filed a lawsuit at the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, challenging the directive.