Chinese Telecoms Are Hijacking US Traffic, Warns Republican FCC Commissioner

Brendan Carr says that Chinese companies are hijacking U.S. TrafficRepublican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr calls for investigation against Chinese telecom companies. Image from Gage Skidmore | Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Amid the highly publicized lobbying of the United States against Huawei, a Chinese Telecom company that the U.S. is accusing of being a national security risk, the Federal Communication Commission is also having a crackdown against Chinese telecom companies who a commissioner said are “hijacking” the U.S. network.

Last week, a Republican commissioner in the Federal Communications Commission, called for an investigation from United States national security agencies against two Chinese telecom providers, separate from a recent investigation the FCC held against a different Chinese telecom provider in the U.S.

Brendan Carr, a commissioner at the FCC, called for authorities to investigate the said telecom providers from China during an FCC Open Meeting on Thursday, May 9th. The call for an investigation was made by Carr before voting for a resolution that would block a different Chinese company, China Mobile, from operating within the United States.

During the meeting, Carr target two different Chinese corporations, China Unicom and China Telecom. Both companies are already operating within the U.S. According to Carr, the security threats in the U.S. have changed since these companies were allowed interconnection rights about 20 years ago.

“The evidence I’ve seen in this case calls those existing authorizations into question,” Carr said in a statement during the meeting. He added that the decision that was made during the meeting are citing reports that China Telecom has been “hijacking” U.S. traffic and “redirecting it through China.”

The Republican commissioner is asking security agencies to investigate the said companies and to see whether or not the FCC should revoke the authorization that was given to them to operate within the country. Reversing their approval would require the Chinese companies to pull out of the US market.

Aside from several security agencies, Carr also asked the FCC to open its investigation on the matter. “It’s time for the U.S. to take additional action,” Carr added.

“Security threats have evolved over the many years since those companies were granted interconnection rights to U.S. networks in the early 2000s. Much if not all of the reasoning behind today’s decision appears to apply with equal or greater force to those legacy authorizations. Let’s ensure that our decisions from decades past don’t inadvertently endanger American interests.”

As evidenced in the intense U.S. lobbying to its allies against the Chinese company, Huawei, there has been an increased concern on whether or not Chinese telecom equipment and companies could pose a severe national security concern by allowing the Chinese government to peer into the networks.

According to the White House, the Chinese government can legally require these Chinese companies to help them in their destabilization plots. A recent law in China allows the Chinese government to ask private Chinese companies in its efforts to protect its national security.

The same sentiment is shared by Democratic Commissioner Geoffrey Starks who said that the authorizations given to the Chinese telecom companies are worry-some however, his concern did not reach to a point where he asks for an investigation just like Commissioner Carr.

“Earlier commissioners granted [authority] to other carriers with similar ownership structure to that of China Mobile […] The executive branch underscores how the national security environment has changed since they were granted,” Starks said in a statement.

Nonetheless, while the commissioners are citing national security risks and how the security climate in the U.S. have changed since the two Chinese telecom providers were authorized to operate within the U.S., there is still no data whether or not these change in the national security data is correlated to the entry of the Chinese companies.

The said measure to block China Mobile from operating in the U.S. was approved in a 5-0 vote last Friday during the meeting. Ajit Pai, the chairman of the FCC, said about the said vote: “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.”

Nonetheless, the implication of whether the vetted decision to block China Mobile from entering the U.S. market would set as a precedent against upcoming Chinese telecom companies and whether the result of the meeting will prompt an actual investigation against existing Chinese telecom providers.

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