After a nearly year-long deliberation, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has revoked the authority of a leading Chinese company to provide telecommunications services within the U.S.
In an order issued at the end of October, the Commission revoked and terminated the rights of China Telecom (Americas) Corporation to offer telecommunications services under the authority previously granted to the company in accordance with section 214 of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended. The Commission determined that its action was necessary “to safeguard the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure from potential security threats.”
The origins of the FCC’s action in this case go back to a unanimous recommendation issued in April 2020 by agencies of the U.S. federal executive branch to revoke and terminate China Telecom Americas’ telecommunications authorizations due to “substantial and unacceptable national security and law enforcement risks” associated with the company’s operations. Specifically, the executive agencies express concerns regarding the company’s close relationship with the government of the Peoples Republic of China, as well as inaccurate statements and representations by the company regarding access to user records and its cybersecurity practices.
In response to the executive agencies’ recommendation, the FCC launched its own proceeding in December 2020 to revoke China Telecom Americas’ authorization, giving all parties the opportunity to make arguments defending their position or to provide additional information.
Although the company did file an ex parte brief in the matter, the Commission ultimately decided that the company “is subject to exploitation, influence, and control by the Chinese government and is highly likely to be forced to comply with Chinese government requests,” thereby justifying the Commission’s revocation and termination of China Telecom Americas’ authority to operate in the U.S.
China Telecom Americas has 60 days from the date of the FCC’s Order to discontinue its U.S. operations.