Agency bars Chinese telecom carriers from offering US broadband services

FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the headquarters of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C.

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The Federal Communications Commission said on Thursday it is ordering the U.S. units of China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile to discontinue fixed or mobile broadband internet operations in the United States.

The FCC said it was requiring the Chinese carriers to discontinue services within 60 days of the effective date of the net neutrality order approved on Thursday. The order also applies to Chinese telecom Pacific Networks and its wholly owned subsidiary ComNet.

The commission previously had barred the companies from providing telecommunications services and those decisions were upheld by U.S. courts.

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel said on Thursday the commission had evidence Chinese telecom carriers were providing broadband services in the United States.

The FCC had cited national security concerns in revoking or denying Chinese companies the right to provide U.S. telecommunications services.

The FCC had said Chinese telecom firms were "subject to exploitation, influence and control by the Chinese government."

The Chinese telecom companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said China Telecom's website shows that the company operates 26 so-called internet "Points of Presence" (POPs) in the United States and offers colocation, broadband, IP transit, and data center services.

The FCC cited national security concerns about Chinese access to POPs typically located within data centers.

"They are interconnecting with other networks and have access to important Points of Presence and data centers," Starks said, urging "a closer look at the threats that adversarial providers pose to our data and data centers."

The FCC since 2022 has been studying vulnerabilities that it says threaten the security and integrity of the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), central to the Internet’s global routing system.

This is the latest action by Washington to restrict Chinese telecom carriers including on undersea cables handling internet traffic.

The FCC previously barred approvals of new telecommunications equipment from China's Huawei Technologies and ZTE and other companies saying they pose "an unacceptable risk" to U.S. national security.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Andrea Ricci)