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Team Telecom to FCC: Deny China Mobile Telecom Application

The White House's chief telecom policy arm has passed along the Executive Branch recommendation that the FCC not allow China Mobile to provide telecom services in the U.S., citing national security concerns with letting the company become a common carrier of international voice traffic between the U.S. and foreign countries via an intricated network of interconnections.

China Mobile filed for a (sec. 214) license to do so back in September 2011. Per procedure when a foreign company wants to provide such service in the U.S., the FCC referred the application to the executive Branch for a so-called "team telecom" review of whether allowing it would be in the public interest.That team includes Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce (NTIA is part of Commerce, the U.S. Trade Representative and the White House Office of Science Technology & Policy. Their answer was "no," relayed by NTIA, which is the agency authorized to deal directly with the FCC.

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“After significant engagement with China Mobile, concerns about increased risks to U.S. law enforcement and national security interests were unable to be resolved," said NTIA administrator David Redl. "Therefore, the Executive Branch of the U.S. government, through the National Telecommunications and Information administration pursuant to its statutory responsibility to coordinate the presentation of views of the Executive Branch to the FCC, recommends that the FCC deny China Mobile’s Section 214 license request.”

U.S. intelligence agencies and many in Congress are concerned about the connection between the Chinese government and telecoms and the impact on supply chain security for one thing. And while China Mobile offered various remedies, Team Telecom said that the risks cannot be sufficiently mitigated. An FCC spokesperson said that the commission "will be reviewing the filing, consistent with our rules and policies." But it is unlikely to override that recommendation, though it is likely to hold a commission-level vote on it, according to a government source familiar with the process speaking on background.

Why did it take almost seven years for Team Telecom to make the call? An NTIA source cited bureaucracy and due dilligence.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai has recommended cutting off low-income broadband subsidy funding to some Chinese telecoms--ZTE and Huawei, over security concerns.

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.