By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel asked U.S. government agencies to consider declaring that Chinese companies including Quectel and Fibocom Wireless pose unacceptable national security risks, according to letters seen by Reuters.
The Republican chair of the House of Representatives China Select Committee, Mike Gallagher, and the top Democrat on the panel Raja Krishnamoorthi, asked the FCC last month to consider adding to its so-called Covered List the two companies that produce cellular modules.
Federal funds cannot be used to purchase equipment from companies on the list, and the FCC will not authorize new equipment from companies deemed national security threats.
Rosenworcel wrote the FBI, the Justice Department, the National Security Agency, the Defense Department and other agencies on Sept. 1, forwarding the request from the lawmakers.
She said in the previously unreported letters the FCC welcomes the opportunity to collaborate “in addressing this threat, including consideration of the inclusion of this equipment from Quectel and Fibocom on the Covered List.”
The companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Rosenworcel told the lawmakers in a separate letter Tuesday “the issues you raise with respect to connectivity modules merit continued attention. To this end, the commission is examining additional steps it should take to protect U.S. networks.”
She added the FCC can update the Covered List “only at the direction of national security authorities.” The FCC previously placed 10 Chinese and one Russian company on the Covered List including Huawei, ZTE, Hytera Communications Corp, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology and Zhejiang Dahua Technology.
The lawmakers warned that U.S. medical equipment, vehicles and farm equipment using Chinese cellular modules could be accessed and controlled remotely from China.
Cellular modules are components that enable internet of things (IoT) devices to connect to the internet.
Noting they are typically controlled remotely and are the necessary link between the device and the internet, the lawmakers said that if China “can control the module, it may be able to effectively exfiltrate data or shut down the IoT device.”
The FCC has taken other steps to bar Chinese telecom companies from U.S. networks. Last year the FCC voted to revoke China Unicom’s U.S. unit, Pacific Networks and ComNet’s authorization to operate in the United States, citing national security concerns.
Rosenworcel said the list “provides all companies making purchasing decisions clear signals about the security of
products in the marketplace.”
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately comment Wednesday but in 2022 said the FCC “abused state power and maliciously attacked Chinese telecom operators again without factual basis.”
(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio)
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