As expected, the Federal Communications Commission today voted to deny China Mobile's application to provide telecom services between the U.S. and foreign destinations. The vote was unanimous.
China Mobile USA filed an application back in 2011 requesting authority to provide international facilities-based and resale services in the U.S., but it wasn’t until last year that the government made a recommendation on behalf of the executive branch to deny the application due to national security and law enforcement concerns.
In the order adopted today, the FCC said it found that China Mobile USA did not demonstrate that its application was in the public interest. In fact, the FCC found that due to several factors related to China Mobile USA’s ownership and control by the Chinese government, granting such an application would raise substantial and serious national security risks.
Several commissioners also called on the agency to do more in terms of protecting the nation’s telecom security, especially in light of 5G coming down the pike.
Commissioner Brendan Carr said the Chinese government owns a number of other carriers that already are operating in the U.S., including China Unicom and China Telecom, and those companies hold the same Section 214 authorization that China Mobile sought. “Our national security agencies should examine whether the FCC should revoke those existing Section 214 authorizations, and the FCC should open a proceeding on those matters,” he said.
Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said the need for strong FCC action to address security vulnerabilities has never been greater. “As we move into a world of 5G and the Internet of Things, and our network grows larger and more interconnected than ever, real risks and the potential harm of telecom network vulnerabilities will grow exponentially,” he said, before raising a number of questions he said need to be answered, including how to address the continued operation of 2G and 3G networks with known cybersecurity flaws.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel also made a call to action. “We are at an inflection point as the world races to deploy next-generation wireless networks,” she said. “With 5G service, we will have wireless capability built into the world around us. This will provide a whole new range of opportunities for civic and commercial life. But as they multiply, this will vastly expand our surface exposure to attack.”
Chairman Ajit Pai was part of a U.S. delegation that last week attended an international conference on 5G network security hosted by the Czech Republic. There was a broad consensus at that meeting that network security is not only a priority but a necessity, he said. The conference produced a set of 5G security principles that reflect a common understanding of the importance of security in 5G.
Pai also joined several other Administration officials yesterday in a detailed briefing of members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and while he said he can’t discuss what transpired in the meeting, “I can say that at the intersection of national security and communications lies a strong bipartisan consensus in favor of proactive measure to protect our networks at the front end, not as an afterthought,” he said.
Separately, the commission adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposes to reallocate the 1675-1680 MHz band for terrestrial fixed and mobile (except aeronautical mobile) use on a shared basis with existing federal users. The NPRM also seeks comment on appropriate service and technical rules for the band.