Citing law enforcement and national security risks, the Federal Communications Commissions unanimously denied an application by China Mobile USA (the U.S. arm of Chinese telecom giant, China Mobile Ltd.), which aimed to provide international calls and other services via American networks. This could be another in a series of signs of escalating tensions between China and the U.S. The crux of the FCC’s concern is that the company is owned by the Chinese government and would be therefore vulnerable to that influence.
“The Chinese government could use China Mobile to exploit our telephone network to increase intelligence collection against U.S. government agencies and other sensitive targets that depend on this network. That is a flatly unacceptable risk,” said FCC chairman Ajit Pai.
This rebuke comes during a sensitive time. According to The Wall Street Journal, “China Mobile is by some measures the world’s largest mobile telecommunications firm,” and the U.S. and China are currently negotiating a trade deal that could radically affect their financial markets and others.
In fact, the timing is even more interesting considering that on Thursday, Brendan Carr, a Republican commissioner at the FCC, “called for United States national security agencies to investigate two Chinese telecommunications providers” right before voting on the China Mobile measure, reports The Verge.
Carr specifically targeted China Unicom and China Telecom, both of which are currently operating on U.S. networks.
“The evidence I’ve seen in this case calls those existing authorizations into question. For instance, the decision today cites reports that China Telecom has been hijacking U.S. traffic and redirecting it through China,” said Carr in a statement calling for an FCC investigation.
With the past year, U.S. regulators have become increasingly concerned about Chinese telecommunications operating on U.S. networks, worried they could pose national security threats.
Apple and the iPhone Near Trade Crosshairs Again, The Wall Street Journal, 5/11/19