FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says it will be up to the new administration to maintain barricades against China’s attempts to infiltrate America’s telecommunications networks. In a speech Tuesday during the Center for Strategic and International Studies webinar, Pai said: “They will have to decide the approach that they are going to take to addressing the security of our communications networks. And I hope that they succeed.”
He said rule changes the agency put in place during his time as Chairman laid a “solid foundation for securing our communications networks.” The Commission prohibited the use of money from the over $8 billion a year Universal Service Fund to purchase or obtain any equipment or services produced or provided by companies the FCC determines pose a national security threat to the integrity of communications networks or the communications supply chain. It specifically designated Huawei and ZTE as companies that pose such a threat.
Pai also cited the so-called “Rip & Replace” program, to help small, rural carriers remove unsecure equipment from their networks and reimburse them for replacing it. “And just last month, Congress provided the FCC with $1.9 billion for this program. So, we are now well on the way to getting insecure equipment out of our nation’s communication networks,” he said.
In May 2019, the FCC denied China Mobile’s application to enter the U.S. market for national security reasons. Since this decision, it has issued orders to four other Chinese state-owned companies—China Telecom, China Unicom, Pacific Networks, and ComNet—that already hold such FCC authorizations. The orders required these companies to demonstrate why the Commission should not begin proceedings to revoke and terminate their authorizations to operate in the United States based on similar national security concerns.
Last month, Inside Towers reported the Commission started the process for determining whether to revoke and terminate China Telecom’s authority to operate in the United States. The FCC said it found that China Telecom failed to rebut the serious concerns of the Executive Branch about its continued presence here and that more than sufficient cause exists to move forward. “We also recently received additional information and evidence from the Executive Branch on the security threats posed by the remaining three companies,” Pai noted.
He discussed Open Radio Access Networks, commonly known as Open RANs, as an alternative to traditional cellular network architecture. The agency believes ORANS could enable a diversity in suppliers, better network security, and lower costs.