Members of Congress Introduce Bill to Counter Foreign Telecommunications Influence

Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) introduced the Foreign Adversary Communications Transparency (FACT) Act to curb Chinese and other foreign control on domestic telecommunications infrastructure, Stefanik’s office reported in a press release issued Tuesday. The bill would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to publish a list of companies who hold authorizations and  licenses with over 10% or more ownership by foreign adversarial governments, including China, Russia, Iran, or North Korea.

The proposed legislation comes as two alleged Chinese informants were charged with obstructing a federal criminal proceeding against a Chinese telecom company. The suit against Guochun He and Zheng Wang claims that the pair tried to gain an inside scoop on the government’s case against the unnamed telecommunications company for the People’s Republic of China.

The defendants allegedly bribed a government official with cash, jewelry, and cryptocurrency resulting in money laundering and wire fraud charges in addition to obstruction ones. Reportedly, the federal employee worked with the FBI in a sting operation aimed at the two defendants and culminating in last week’s complaint. Two other cases were filed against a total of 13 defendants, two of whom have been arrested so far.

The proposed bill is not the first legislation to address recent infrastructural national security concerns and comes after moves by the FCC and executive branch to revoke the licenses of what they perceive to be government controlled Chinese telecom entities. 

While China is the major focus of these national security-motivated concerns, any country under U.S. suspicions is subject to current rules. For example, in a proceeding last week, the FCC fined telecom Truphone Inc. for failing to disclose transfer of licenses and company ownership on multiple occasions to Russians or Russian entities. 

The FACT Act would create even greater transparency, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said in a statement applauding the initiative, explaining that a published list would make it easier for private tech and telecom companies to assess the likelihood that an entity may have ties to an adversarial country.