FCC bans China Telecom from operating in the U.S. due to national security issues

The company must suspend US services within 60 days after the agency found it to be "under exploitation" by the Chinese government.

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The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted Tuesday to withdraw the authorization of the US-based Chinese Telecom company to operate in the United States, citing national security concerns.

The decision means China Telecom Americas will now have to cut off U.S. services. within 60 days. China Telecom, China's largest telecommunications company, has been authorized to provide telecommunications services for nearly 20 years in the United States.

The FCC has found that China Telecom is "subject to the exploitation, influence and control of the Chinese government and may be compelled to comply with the Chinese government's demands without adequate legal procedures under independent supervision."

The U.S. regulator added that the ownership and control of the Chinese government "raises significant threats to national security and law enforcement by providing opportunities for" Chinese and Chinese companies "to access, retain, disrupt and / or misuse US communications."

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A spokesman for China Telecoms America told Reuters that the FCC's decision was "disappointing."

"We plan to follow all available procedures while continuing to serve our customers," the spokesman said.

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China Telecom has used more than 335 million subscribers worldwide since 2019 and claims to be the world's largest fixed line and broadband company, according to a Senate report, and provides services to Chinese government agencies in the United States.

The U.S. government said in April 2020 that China Telecom launched its mobile network to more than 4 million Chinese Americans; 2 million Chinese tourists a year visit to the United States; 300,000 Chinese students in American colleges; and more than 1,500 Chinese businesses in the United States.

In April 2020, the FCC warned that it could shut down US operations of three state-owned Chinese telecommunications companies, citing national security risks, including China Telecom Americas and China Unicom Americas, Pacific Networks Corp and its subsidiary ComNet (USA). LLC, after U.S. agencies raised concerns about national security.

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Jessica Rosenworcel, acting chair of the Federal Communications Commission, Capitol Hill, Dec. 5, 2019. Chip File Somodevilla / Getty Images

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, from the Republic, said the FCC "must remain vigilant against the threats posed by China." The Chinese ambassador to Washington did not respond to a request for comment.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman and Tom Carper, who released a report in 2020 on the performance of Chinese and US telephone companies, praised the FCC's decision in a joint statement outlining "significant national and security risks and law enforcement."

In March, the FCC launched efforts to revoke the authorization of China Unicom Americas, Pacific Networks and the fully owned company ComNet to provide U.S. communications services.

In May 2019, the FCC voted unanimously to reject another state-owned Chinese telecommunications company, China Mobile, the right to provide U.S. services.

The FCC has taken further action against China's communications with other companies.

Last year, the FCC appointed Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corp as national security threats on social media - an announcement that barred US companies from using the $ 8.3 billion government fund to buy equipment from companies. The FCC in December adopted rules requiring carriers with ZTE or Huawei equipment to "tear down and replace" such equipment.

In March, the FCC named five Chinese companies as a threat to national security under the 2019 law, including Huawei, ZTE, Hytera Communications, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co.