FCC’s Pai says he’ll bar China Mobile from U.S.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai
The Trump administration’s recommendation was the first time the executive branch has ever recommended that the FCC deny an application due to national security concerns. (FCC)

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced Tuesday that he’ll work to block China Mobile’s attempts to provide common carrier cellular service between the United States and other countries.

China Mobile’s U.S. branch, China Mobile USA, filed an application with the FCC back in 2011 to establish international facilities-based and resale telecommunications services between the U.S. and other countries as a common carrier. The infrastructure would then be used to carry international voice traffic between the United States and other countries, and to interconnect that traffic with U.S. telecom networks.

In July 2018, the Trump administration’s Department of Commerce urged the FCC to reject the proposal, citing national security concerns that “cannot be resolved through a voluntary mitigation agreement.”

“After significant engagement with China Mobile, concerns about increased risks to U.S. law enforcement and national security interests were unable to be resolved,” said David Redl, assistant secretary for communications and information at the U.S. Department of Commerce, in a statement.

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Pai has adopted the Trump administration’s stance on the issue, noting that it was “the first time the executive branch has ever recommended that the FCC deny an application due to national security concerns.”

Pai is now circulating a draft order arguing that China Mobile is vulnerable to exploitation, influence and control by the Chinese government. It’s similar to the argument the Trump administration and national security officials have been using to bar U.S. companies from using Huawei products in 5G networks.  

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“Safeguarding our communications networks is critical to our national security. After reviewing the evidence in this proceeding, including the input provided by other federal agencies, it is clear that China Mobile’s application to provide telecommunications services in our country raises substantial and serious national security and law enforcement risks,” Pai said in a statement. “Therefore, I do not believe that approving it would be in the public interest. I hope that my colleagues will join me in voting to reject China Mobile’s application.”

The commission will vote on the proposal in May.