On October 26, 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unanimously adopted an order revoking and terminating its authorizations for China Telecom (Americas) Corporation to provide telecommunications services within the United States. The order, summarized in an FCC press release, cites the Chinese government’s control over China Telecom; evolving U.S. national security concerns with respect to China; and China Telecom’s lack of candor, trustworthiness, and reliability in its interactions with the FCC and other federal agencies as reasons for the revocation. The order directs China Telecom to discontinue service in the U.S. within 60 days following the release of the order.
The revocation follows an April 2020 recommendation, filed by several executive branch agencies to the FCC, that China Telecom’s continued access to the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure presented substantial and unacceptable national security and law enforcement risks. Shortly after the recommendation was issued, three FCC bureaus issued an order to show cause, directing China Telecom to demonstrate why the FCC should not initiate proceedings to revoke and terminate its section 214 authorizations. In December 2020, the commission adopted an order to institute formal proceedings to revoke China Telecom’s section 214 authorizations, finding that China Telecom “failed to rebut the serious concerns of the Executive Branch about its continued presence in the United States.”
China Telecom is the U.S. subsidiary of a Chinese government-owned telecommunications company. The company currently has three active certificates of authorization to operate as an international common carrier in the U.S. Section 214 of the Communications Act (47 U.S.C. § 214) prohibits a common carrier from operating in the U.S. without a certificate of authorization from the FCC. The revocation order applies to all three certificates.On June 9, 2020, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs released a staff report on threats to U.S. networks from Chinese government-owned carriers. The report noted that the FCC has the authority to revoke authorizations but had never done so under a national security standard. In her statement on the China Telecom revocation order, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel confirmed that since the staff report was issued, the FCC has increased its oversight of telecommunications networks and is quickly moving forward on security reviews for other Chinese carriers like China Unicom Americas, Pacific Networks, and ComNet.