China Unicom Americas loses its FCC services authority

Jessica RosenworJessica Rosenworcelcel 2018.jpg

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued an order revoking China Unicom Americas authority to provide telecoms services in the US.

Under the rules of the order on revocation, China Unicom Americas is to stop any domestic or international services that it provides within sixty days of the Order, which was issued on 27 January 2022.

The order comes following a review of the company’s responses, the public record and the FCC’s public interest analysis all of which include input from executive branch agencies. The FCC believes that this action "safeguards the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure from potential security threats".

"It was more than two decades ago that China Unicom Americas first received section 214 authorization from the Federal Communications Commission to provide domestic and international service in the United States," said FCC chairwoman, Jessica Rosenworcel.

"But since that time, the national security landscape has shifted and there has been mounting evidence—and with it, a growing concern—that Chinese state-owned carriers pose a real threat to the security of our telecommunications networks."

In Rosenworcel's full statement she goes on to say that China Unicom in response to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 2020 that highlighted threats associated with Chinese state-owned carriers operating in the US, issued its own response, that is turn received its own reply from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which found "that China Unicom Americas was subject to the control of the Chinese Government".

China Unicom had another opportunity to reply, "and at each stage, China Unicom Americas’ responses were incomplete, misleading, or incorrect".

"On the basis of this record, we believe it is clear that the public interest is no longer served by China Unicom Americas’ retention of its section 214 authority," added Rosenworcel.  

"So, we revoke China Unicom Americas’ domestic and international section 214 authority and direct China Unicom Americas to discontinue within 60 days of the release of this order any domestic or international services that it provides pursuant to this authority."

In the detail, the order finds that:

  1. …China Unicom Americas, a US subsidiary of a Chinese state-owned enterprise, is subject to exploitation, influence, and control by the Chinese government and is highly likely to be forced to comply with Chinese government requests without sufficient legal procedures subject to independent judicial oversight.

  2. …China Unicom Americas’ ownership and control by the Chinese government raise significant national security and law enforcement risks by providing opportunities for China Unicom Americas, its parent entities, and the Chinese government to access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute US communications, which in turn allow them to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the United States.

  3. China Unicom Americas’ conduct and representations to the FCC and Congress demonstrate a lack of candor, trustworthiness, and reliability that erodes the baseline level of trust that the Commission and other US government agencies require of telecommunications carriers …

  4. And that any mitigation would not address these significant national security and law enforcement concerns.