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China Unicom logos are displayed at a news conference in Hong Kong in March 2016. Phooto: Reuters

US agency adds Chinese telecoms firms to national security threat list

  • Pacific Networks Corp, its subsidiary ComNet (USA) and China Unicom (Americas) were put on the ‘Covered List’ by the FCC
  • Other Chinese companies on the list include Huawei, ZTE and Hikvision

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) named Chinese telecoms companies Pacific Networks Corp, its wholly-owned subsidiary ComNet (USA) LLC and China Unicom (Americas) as threats to US national security, the regulator said Tuesday.

The designations are under a 2019 law aimed at protecting US communications networks.

In March 2021, the FCC initially designated five Chinese companies under its so-called “Covered List” – including Huawei Technologies Co, ZTE Corp, Hytera Communications Corp, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co.

The FCC said the companies are subject to the Chinese government’s exploitation, influence and control, along with the associated national security risks. They also raised concerns both “will be forced to comply with Chinese government requests for communications intercepts, without the ability to challenge such requests”.

The Chinese embassy in Washington and US lawyers for China Unicom and Pacific Networks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Earlier this year, the US regulator voted to revoke China Unicom’s US unit, Pacific Networks and ComNet’s authorisation to operate in the United States, citing national security concerns.

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said the move was critical to protecting US communications networks from foreign national security threats.

“We are taking additional action to close the door to these companies.”

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In March, the FCC added Russia’s AO Kaspersky Lab, China Telecom (Americas) Corp and China Mobile International USA to the covered list.

In October 2021, the FCC also revoked the US authorisation for China Telecom (Americas) and in 2019, rejected China Mobile’s bid to provide US telecommunications services, citing national security risks.

Inclusion on the covered list means money from the FCC’s US$8 billion Universal Service Fund may not be used to purchase or maintain products from the companies. The fund supports telecommunications for rural areas, low-income consumers and facilities such as schools, libraries and hospitals.

Earlier this year, the Chinese embassy in Washington said the FCC “abused state power and maliciously attacked Chinese telecoms operators again without factual basis. The US should immediately stop its unreasonable suppression of Chinese companies.”