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Tech Groups Have Issues with FCC Device Security Proposals

A child streams content on his phone while wearing headphones.
(Image credit: Cavan Images via Getty Images)

Technology industry groups are warning the Federal Communications Commission to exercise regulatory caution when changing its device authorization process in the name of network security.

Also Read: Secure Networks Act Passes Senate

In a notice of inquiry (NOI) and notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), the FCC is contemplating changes to its equipment authorizations for phones, computers and other devices that tap into FCC-regulated spectrum in its ongoing effort to better protect the network supply chain from national security threats.

Eight industry groups signed onto two letters to the commission targeting the NOI and NPRM. They included the Consumer Technology Association, CTIA–The Wireless Association, USTelecom and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI).

While the signatories all said they supported protecting the supply chain against “foreign adversaries and nation-states,” the trade groups said the FCC effort raises a number of legal and implementation questions. It also raises the specter of unintended consequences the FCC should consider carefully before taking any action, the groups said.

The groups are particularly concerned about the FCC’s revocation of existing authorizations for equipment that may be in consumers’ homes or offices, or incorporated into other equipment.

“Devices sold at retail may be difficult or impossible to locate, and if a device has been incorporated into other equipment a replacement may require new engineering, testing, validation and manufacture,” the letter said. 

The technology groups also have issues with the proposed criteria for evaluating suspect devices according to their country of origin, rather than the technology used. Historically the FCC’s authorizations have been based on technology and not, for example, whether a device came from China. The groups said the FCC's legal authority to conduct this new type of review is unclear.

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.