Portman, Carper Applaud FCC Decision to End China Telecom Operations in U.S.

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Tom Carper (D-DE), applauded the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to revoke China Telecom Americas’ authority to provide domestic and international telecommunication services from within the United States. Last year, as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), the senators released a bipartisan report detailing how the federal government provided little-to-no oversight of Chinese state-owned telecommunications carriers operating in the United States for nearly twenty years. This report revealed how the U.S. telecommunications industry has been targeted and exploited by China to further its intelligence collection and espionage efforts against the United States. Today’s decision marks the first time the FCC has revoked a carrier’s authorization to provide services based on national security concerns. 

China Telecom Americas, which is ultimately owned and controlled by the Chinese government, has been licensed by the FCC to provide telecommunications services in the United States since 2002. The FCC’s decision highlights the substantial and serious national security and law enforcement risks associated with China Telecom Americas’ domestic operations.

“As detailed in our bipartisan Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations report last year, China regularly uses its telecommunications carriers, including China Telecom Americas, to further its intelligence collection and espionage efforts,” said Senator Portman. “I am pleased to see the FCC use its enforcement authority to address the threat to our national and economic security posed by China Telecom and ensure our communications networks are secure for all Americans. I urge the FCC to complete its review of the other Chinese-owned telecommunications carriers operating in the United States.”  

“Last year, Senator Portman and I released a bipartisan report that revealed just how little federal oversight has been conducted over three Chinese government-owned telecommunications carriers that operate on United States soil,” Senator Carper said. “I welcome today’s decision by the FCC calling one of those three companies a national security threat, and ultimately revoking China Telecom’s ability to operate within our borders. This decision by the FCC is directly related to the good work we started on PSI, and I hope the FCC will continue its due diligence over other foreign-owned carriers operating in the U.S. to protect our domestic telecommunications networks going forward.” 

NOTE: The Subcommittee’s 2020 bipartisan report found that the FCC and “Team Telecom”— an informal group comprised of officials from the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Defense — had failed to monitor three Chinese government-owned carriers. China Telecom Americas, China Unicom Americas, and ComNet USA have been operating in the United States since the early 2000s. The Subcommittee’s bipartisan report documents how Team Telecom had little engagement with China Telecom Americas and ComNet USA, until recently. Team Telecom has only visited the two carriers twice in more than a decade. The Subcommittee also found that Team Telecom had no oversight of or interaction with China Unicom Americas since the FCC authorized it to provide international telecom services in 2002. The FCC is currently considering whether to revoke the authorizations of China Unicom Americas and ComNet USA.