Court Upholds FCC’s China Telecom Smackdown

Jessica Rosenworcel
FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel (Image credit: FCC)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has rejected China Telecom's appeal of its designation as a supplier of suspect tech that the U.S. government will not fund with subsidies for new broadband buildouts, and that must be ripped and replaced from existing networks.

That is according to Federal Communications Commission chair Jessica Rosenworcel — the D.C. Circuit had not posted its opinion to the court website at deadline.

“The FCC is determined to protect the security of the nation's communications networks and services,” Rosenworcel said of the decision by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit. “I am pleased with today's ruling, which upholds our decision last year to revoke and terminate China Telecom’s authority to provide communications service in the United States. 

“This action was based on the recommendation of national security agencies that found that China Telecom’s operations in the U.S. provided opportunities for increased Chinese state-sponsored cyber-activities, including economic espionage and the disruption and misrouting of U.S. communications traffic,” she said. ”There is no higher FCC responsibility than safeguarding our networks, and today’s ruling is a strong affirmation of our authority to do so.”

Also: China Telecom Has Some Explaining to Do

In 2020, The Trump FCC under chairman Ajit Pai, and on the recommendation of other executive branch agencies, essentially launched the revocation process by asking China Telecom to demonstrate why it should not have its license revoked. The Biden FCC, under then-acting chair Rosenworcel, defended that process.

China Telecom responded, saying that the revocation proceeding should have been conducted via a more formal hearing or in-person hearing before an administrative law judge, rather than through dueling written comments. But the FCC was unpersuaded and began the official revocation proceeding, asking the executive branch agencies to provide written comments on what it thought of China Telecom’s response. Their initial view of the company was that there were “substantial and unacceptable national security and law enforcement risks associated with [China Telecom’s] continued access to U.S. telecommunications infrastructure.”

China Telecom appealed the FCC decision to the court, which the FCC strongly defended, and the court panel this week agreed.

China Telecom could appeal the panel’s decision to the full appeals court or to the Supreme Court. ▪️

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.