What just happened? The US government’s fears regarding potential Chinese surveillance have grown rapidly over the past few years, with both the Trump and Biden administrations taking action to combat this perceived threat. Indeed, today, Biden’s Federal Communications Commission has formally banned China Telecom (a provider of cloud, internet, and mobile connectivity services) from operating in the US.
As the name implies, China Telecom is a Chinese firm and a state-owned one at that. The FCC conducted an investigation (with the assistance of Executive Branch agencies) into the company’s operations and determined that, despite its protests, China Telecom is “subject to exploitation, influence, and control” by the Chinese government.
China’s ownership of China Telecom creates what the FCC considers a national security and law enforcement risk, as the corporation’s continued presence in America could lead to the access, storage, disruption, or misrouting of US communications. This, in turn, could lead to espionage and “other harmful activities” conducted against the US.
The FCC does not believe that further mitigations or restrictions on China Telecom’s operations would eliminate these threats. As such, the organization has “revoked and terminated” the company’s authority to provide its telecom services within US borders or to US citizens. China Telecom has 60 days to shut down its US-centric operations from the release of the FCC’s order today.
The FCC will publish a “consumer guide” to assist China Telecom’s soon-to-be-former customers in transitioning to a new telecom provider. The document should be available now in English, Simplified Chinese, and Traditional Chinese, but we were unable to locate it on the Commission’s website as of writing.