US president forms committee to focus on threats from Chinese carriers

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

Apr 7, 2020

© The White House youtu.be/EcWTCD6YiTY

© The White House youtu.be/EcWTCD6YiTY

  • Wants it to pull together information on telecoms service applications from US intelligence and law enforcement communities 
  • Committee will receive requests to investigate from the FCC 
  • It will also issue it with recommendations on which applications to approve or deny

President Trump has made an executive order establishing a committee to provide recommendations to the FCC regarding foreign applications for US telecoms licenses. 

Its job will be to review the national security and law enforcement concerns that may be raised by specific applications and the committee will be chaired by Attorney General William Barr. Other members will include the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Homeland Security and anyone else the president sees fit to appoint.

It will endeavour to assess the national security risks posed by foreign entities either enjoying a current US telecoms license, or applying for one, and will collect information and then recommend to the FCC whether applications should be dismissed, accepted or require conditions for acceptance.

The FCC majority is highly in favour of this new push by the administration. According to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, “Now that this Executive Order has been issued, the FCC will move forward to conclude our own pending rulemaking on reform of the foreign ownership review process.”

While in theory new rulemaking on foreign ownership of US telecom services might be mobilised to make life difficult for the likes of Deutsche Telekom or Softbank, which both have major shareholdings in the newly formed T-Mobile/Sprint entity, it’s generally understood that China and its various companies are the obvious target of the new committee.

One commissioner in particular, Brendan Carr, is fully behind the move. “President Trump’s decision sends a clear message that the US will do what it takes to secure our communications networks from any threats posed by foreign actors,” he announced in an FCC official communication today. 

“I recommend that the committee examine every carrier owned by the Chinese government that now connects to networks here in the US - including China Unicom and China Telecom,” he said. “By issuing this executive order, the president acted to ensure the security of our telecom networks against foreign actors who may seek to do us harm... The threat of attacks on our critical telecom infrastructure and illegal spying rise as our reliance on those networks rises. Leveraging America’s national security agencies and their expertise will enhance the commission’s long-standing duty to help safeguard our networks.” 

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