FCC to Court: Reject China Telecom Appeal

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The FCC continues to signal that nothing has changed in the change of administrations, at least when it comes to a proceeding to pull the license from China Telecom so it can no longer connect with U.S. networks.

That came in its response to China Telecom's petition to the court to review the FCC's framework for adjudicating its fitness as an FCC licensee.

Also Read: China Telecom Has Some Explaining to Do

The FCC, then and now, views the Chinese telecom as a potential national security threat, as do the other government agencies included in national security reviews of foreign actor involvement with U.S. communications.

That was out of concern that current or potential Chinese government influence could make the company a  threat to the security of critical 5G nets in the U.S.

The Trump FCC under chairman Ajit Pai a year ago, on the recommendation of other Executive Branch agencies, essentially launched the process by asking China Telecom to demonstrate why it should not have its license revoked. The FCC under acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel is defending that process.

China Telecom responded, 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.”

Related: FCC Flags More Chinese Telecoms 

China Telecom will then have a chance to respond to those comments.

China Telecom appealed the FCC order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, saying that the revocation proceeding should be conducted via a more formal hearing or in-person hearing before an Administrative Law Judge, rather than through the dueling written comments.

The FCC argues that the decision on how to conduct a proceeding is not a final agency action--as would, say, a final decision to revoke the license at the and of the process--and so the China Telecom suit should be rejected as premature or, alternatively, denied.

The FCC pointed out that it can always decide to add supplemental processes, presumably including in-person queries or more formal inquiry after it reviews the full comment record.

John Eggerton

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.