On Wednesday, the Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai said that he opposes a bid from China Mobile to provide telecommunications services in the US. The FCC will vote on the company’s application next month.
China Mobile filed its application to supply the US with telecom services in September 2011, and after a long review process, the FCC told reporters today that senior officials believed the carrier to pose significant national security and law enforcement risks to the US.
“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.”
Senior FCC officials said that they believed China Mobile to ultimately be owned by the People’s Republic of China and, if supported in the US, could lead to Chinese government-led espionage on US consumers. The officials also said that the Commission will not be pursuing a mitigation agreement because of these threats and a lack of trust between both the US and China. China Mobile presented a possible mitigation agreement to the administration, but it was rejected by both the executive branch and the FCC.
The move comes amid new and widespread concerns about Chinese telecoms’ powers over American networks. In March of last year, Pai announced that the FCC would be considering a new rule that would bar US carriers like AT&T and Verizon from using Universal Service Funds to purchase China-based telecom equipment for their networks. This move to block China Mobile does not affect funding, but senior officials said that the USF rule, which was first floated around last year, is still under consideration.
This new rule will receive a vote at the FCC’s next open meeting on May 9th. It’s unclear how other commissioners plan to vote.