Agencies Recommend FCC End China Telecom Authorizations

The Trump administration asked the Federal Communications Commission to “revoke and terminate” authorizations for China Telecom Corporations, a US subsidiary of a telecommunications company owned by the People’s Republic of China, to provide international telecommunications services into and out of the United States according to a press release from the Department of Justice. The Executive Branch agencies involved in the recommendation included the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, State, Commerce, and the United States Trade Representative.

China Telecom sells mobile services, primarily to Chinese customers living in or visiting the United States. The release cited China Telecom’s failure to adhere to the terms of an agreement with the Department of Justice, the 2007 Letter of Assurance, which the existing FCC authorizations were based on.

John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said “Today, more than ever, the life of the nation and its people runs on our telecommunications networks … The security of our government and professional communications, as well as our most private data, depends on our use of trusted partners from nations that share our values and our aspirations for humanity.” Demers said this is the next step in a process to ensure the integrity of US telecommunications.

The Department of Justice claims communication through China Telecom is vulnerable to influence and exploitation by the Chinese government. They also cited that the national security environment has changed significantly since the 2007 agreement with China Telecom. They also allege China Telecom gave inaccurate statements to the US government about where its records are stored and inaccurate representations of its cybersecurity practices. 

The decision to revoke China Telecom’s license would be made by the FCC. A spokeswoman for the FCC said they are looking at the issue and welcome this input from the executive branch.

China Telecom said they have been cooperative and transparent. “In many instances, we have gone beyond what has been requested to demonstrate how our business operates and serves our customers following the highest international standards. We look forward to sharing additional details to support our position and addressing any concerns,” the company said in a statement.