Senators Urge FCC to Review China Telecom, China Unicom Licenses

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Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) asked the FCC on Monday to consider if two Chinese telecoms — China Telecom and China Unicom — should be barred from operating in the U.S. Their licenses give them the right to use networks in this country, reports the New York Times.

The request builds on a letter the pair sent to the Department of Defense last week expressing spying concerns regarding the two companies. China Telecom denied it’s a security threat to the U.S. while China Unicom did not respond to a NYT request for comment.

National security officials have been worried for years that the Chinese government could use its companies to gain access to telecommunications infrastructure. Those concerns have become more prominent as U.S. and Chinese carriers race to launch 5G.  

In May, the FCC denied an application from China Mobile to operate in the United States, Inside Towers reported. Chairman Ajit Pai said at the time that there was a risk that the Chinese government would use the carrier to, “conduct activities that would seriously jeopardize the national security, law enforcement, and economic interests of the United States.”

China Unicom and China Telecom have licenses that were granted by the Commission in the early 2000s, and some regulators have said that they should be re-examined even though the companies are smaller than China Mobile. Schumer and Cotton said, “the evolving national security environment and increased knowledge of the Chinese government’s role in economic and other forms of espionage” requires a re-examination of licenses belonging to any state-controlled Chinese telecom company.

September 17, 2019            

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