FCC Bans Chinese Telecom Equipment Deemed Threat to National Security

In its latest action against Chinese telecom service and equipment providers, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted new rules prohibiting certain equipment’s importation to and sale in the United States. According to the agency’s announcement last week, the new regulations implement the bipartisan Secure Equipment Act of 2021 which President Biden signed into law last November.

In a Report and Order, the FCC set forth strictures applying to “future authorizations of equipment identified on the Covered List published by the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau pursuant to the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019.” The Covered List has undergone expansion in recent months, and currently includes communications equipment produced by Huawei Technologies, ZTE Corporation, Hytera Communications, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, and Dahua Technology.

The new rules forbid authorization of equipment from these and other providers absent an exemption from the FCC, regardless of whether the equipment is paid for with federal funds. In addition, the agency said it is soliciting comments on further revisions to the authorization process and on its competitive bidding program.

In a statement, FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel called the approach comprehensive. “It covers phones, cameras, and Wi-Fi routers that go into our homes. And it covers re-branded or ‘white label’ equipment that is developed for the marketplace,” Rosenworcel added.

The move is the latest by the agency to strengthen protections for the country’s communications networks and particularly in response to perceived surveillance and cyber threats from China. Last March, the FCC published the first-ever list of communications and services that pose an unacceptable risk to national security as required under the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act.

After Congress passed the Secure Equipment Act last year, the FCC revoked several Chinese telecom’s service authority, though some, including China Telecom (Americas) have fought the decision. Last month, the FCC reached a first-of-its-kind settlement against a company that will require it to divest unvetted Russian ownership, pay a civil penalty, and comply with foreign ownership requirements.