US blasts regulators over China operator licences - Mobile World Live

US blasts regulators over China operator licences

09 JUN 2020

Politicians urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other government authorities to step-up monitoring of Chinese telecom companies, after a long-running investigation concluded they failed to adequately do so over the past twenty years.

In a statement, Senator Rob Portman said Congress’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations probe showed “federal agencies have done little to protect the integrity of US telecommunications networks and counter national security threats from China”.

The subcommitte called on Congress to mandate periodic review and renewal of licences granted to non-domestic operators, and provide new regulatory authority to a telecom security review committee created by President Trump in April.

It also recommended the FCC should swiftly conclude a review of licences held by China Telecom (Americas), China Unicom (Americas) and ComNet (USA); and establish a clear standard and process for cancelling licences.

In a report, the subcommittee explained its investigation highlighted “limited and sporadic” oversight of non-domestic operators by the FCC and Departments of Justice; Homeland Security; and Defence in the 20 years since licences were issued.

The group noted there is currently no requirement for the FCC to review licences after they are issued. Although the various government ministries were enlisted to help the FCC assess national security risks in licence applications, this was an informal process and so lacked teeth.

While the investigation found the FCC and government agencies signed security deals with China Telecom (Americas) in 2007 and ComNet (USA) in 2009, it highlighted a lack of a similar arrangement covering China Unicom (Americas).

Where agreements were struck, the regulatory groups only conducted two site visits to each operator in the past 20 years, with only one of those occurring before 2017.

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Diana Goovaerts

Diana is Mobile World Live's US Editor, reporting on infrastructure and spectrum rollouts, regulatory issues, and other carrier news from the US market. Diana came to GSMA from her former role as Editor of Wireless Week and CED Magazine, digital-only...

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