The FCC is set to deny an application from Chinese government-owned China Mobile USA to provide telecom services in America based on national security concerns. Officials told reporters Wednesday, it’s the first time executive branch agencies recommended the Commission make such a decision based on these concerns.
China Mobile filed an application in 2011, seeking authority under Section 214 of the Communications Act and Section 63.18 of the Commission’s rules, to provide phone calls between the U.S. and other countries not on an exclusion list. In response to a question from Inside Towers, an agency official said a 214 authorization gives a company broad discretion as to what services to offer. An authorization would give the company, “greater access to phone lines and other [gear] that make up our networks than a provider that does not have this authorization,” said an FCC official on background.
In this case, executive branch intelligence agencies said the Chinese government compels its telecoms to cooperate in espionage. In a draft order Chairman Ajit Pai circulated to his colleagues Wednesday, the Commission says China Mobile is “vulnerable to exploitation, influence, and control” by the Chinese government, according to agency officials.
In regular 214 application cases, concerns are assuaged through negotiation of a mitigation agreement. The executive branch agencies felt that wasn’t possible this time, because there isn’t “a level of trust” with the company, an agency official told reporters.
Pai hopes to have the order ready to vote on at the FCC’s May 9 meeting. After that, the only recource the company would have is to go to court and win its case.
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April 18, 2019