Signs are visible at the headquarters of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, DC, USA, August 29, 2020. REUTERS / Andrew Kelly

March 25, 2022

David Shepardson and Raphael Sutter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Friday added Russia’s Kaspersky Lab, China Telecom (Americas) Corp. and China Mobile International USA to a list of communications equipment and services considered a threat to U.S. national security.

The 2019 law requires the FCC to publish and update a list of communications equipment and services that pose an unacceptable risk to national security or the safety and security of U.S. residents. Last year, the FCC nominated five Chinese companies, the first to be named on the U.S. Telecommunications Regulatory List.

“Today’s action is the latest in the FCC’s ongoing efforts as part of a broader nationwide approach to strengthen America’s communications networks against threats to national security,” said FCC Chair Jessica Rosenvorsel. The FCC said it “will continue to update the list as other equipment and communication services meet the criteria required by law.”

This designation means that $ 8 billion of money from the FCC’s annual Universal Service Fund (USF) can no longer be used to purchase or service the products of any of the companies. USF funds are used to support telecommunications services in rural and expensive areas for low-income consumers, government agencies such as schools and libraries, and medical facilities.

Moscow’s Kaspersky is under increasing pressure after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last month. U.S. officials have long issued warnings about Kaspersky, and the United States has officially banned the company’s flagship antivirus product on federal networks in 2017. Recently, European cyber authorities have begun to follow suit, issuing similar warnings.

Private companies have also begun to sever ties with Kaspersky. Earlier on Friday, Kaspersky said in a message posted on Twitter that the popular HackerOne bug rewards program, which pays hackers money to look for software flaws, had thrown the firm off its platform.

In October, the FCC revoked U.S. approval of China Telecom (America), saying it was “subject to exploitation, influence and control by the Chinese government.” China Telecom has failed to persuade a U.S. court to overturn the decision.

In 2019, the FCC rejected China Mobile’s bid to provide U.S. telecommunications services, citing national security risks.

Earlier this month, the FCC voted 4-0 to revoke the permission of Chinese telecommunications company Pacific Networks and its wholly-owned subsidiary ComNet to provide telecommunications services in the United States.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not comment on Friday immediately, but China’s Commerce Ministry earlier this month criticized the FCC’s actions and said China would take steps to protect the legal rights of its firms.

In January, the FCC voted to revoke a similar permit for the U.S. division of China Unicom to operate in the United States, citing national security concerns.

Chinese telecommunications companies and Kapersky did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

In March 2021, the FCC recognized Huawei Technologies Co., ZTE Corp., Hytera Communications Corp., Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. and Dahua Technology Co. as security threats.

(Report by David Shepardson and Raphael Sutter Edited by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis)

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