Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai recommended on Wednesday that China Mobile should not be allowed to operate in the United States because the Chinese telecom giant poses “substantial and serious national security and law enforcement risks.”
China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile phone operator, has been seeking access to the U.S. market for eight years. The FCC is due to vote next month on approval of an order that would conclusively deny the company’s request to operate. The five-member commission is expected to vote in favor of the order and ban China Mobile.
China Mobile told the FCC it seeks designation as a “common carrier” in the United States so it can connect international voice traffic with the U.S. telecom network. It said it does not seek permission to provide domestic phone or mobile service to U.S. customers.
The company also insisted it does not have to comply with Chinese law stipulating that all private enterprises must cooperate with Chinese intelligence services on demand, including access to their equipment that would allow China to spy on foreign customers. The Trump administration is implacably skeptical of claims by Chinese corporations that they will never be forced to comply with China’s 2018 National Cybersecurity Law.
Pai referred to a July request from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for the FCC to deny China Mobile’s application, warning that the Chinese government could use China Mobile’s links to the U.S. telecom network for “economic espionage and intelligence collection.”
”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 released by email.
“There is a significant risk that the Chinese government would use the grant of authority to China Mobile USA to conduct activities that would seriously jeopardize the national security and law enforcement interests of the United States,” FCC officials said on Wednesday.
China Mobile responded by insisting “we comply with all applicable laws in the course of operations and have not engaged in any behavior that causes substantial and serious national security and law enforcement risks.”
“We will wait for the official application result and may take follow up actions,” the company said.