Outgoing US Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai said potential Chinese espionage and threats to US telecommunications networks and Internet freedom are the biggest national security issue that regulators will face in the next four years.
Ajit Pai said in an interview that there is a “wide array” of activity from China that was of concern, including of surveillance, economic espionage and potential “injection of malware into networks here in the US or around the world. There are a number of bad things that can happen when insecure equipment is used to handle sensitive information.”
Pai was named chairman in January 2017 by former President Donald Trump and stepped down on Wednesday. During his tenure, the FCC cracked down on Chinese network manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE.
Last month, the FCC began the process of revoking China Telecom’s authorisation to operate in the US. China Telecom is the largest Chinese telecoms company.
“The Chinese Communist Party has a very determined world view. They want to dominate this space and exert their will — even beyond their own borders,” Pai said. “That is a serious threat not just to Internet freedom but to national security for us and for many of our allies.”
The Chinese foreign ministry said in December that US claims about risks to national security were false.
The FCC first warned in April might terminate US operations of three state-controlled Chinese telecoms companies including China Telecom.
In 2019, the FCC voted to deny state-owned China Mobile the right to provide US telecoms services, citing risks the Chinese government could use the approval to conduct espionage.
Under Pai, the FCC formally designated China’s Huawei and ZTE as national security threats, barring US firms from tapping an US$8.3-billion government fund to purchase equipment from the companies. Congress approved $1.9-billion in December to pay for replacement of Chinese-made equipment in US networks.
In April, the FCC approved Google’s request to use part of a US-Asia undersea telecoms cable, but not to Hong Kong, after US agencies raised national security concerns. — Reported by David Shepardson, (c) 2021 Reuters