CTT and FAI Jointly Submit Comments to the FCC on National Security

China Tech Threat (CTT) and the Foundation for American Innovation (FAI) submitted joint reply comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Safeguarding and Securing the Open Internet. The proceeding attempts to classify broadband under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, offering the Commission a set of tools to regulate internet prices and traffic under statues defined for Ma Bell.   

CTT and FAI appreciate and agree with the FCC that national security and public safety are worthy public policy goals. The FCC has implemented 72 critical actions to promote national security and public safety since 2017. These items, mostly presented by the FCC’s Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau, address critical issues like equipment safety and integrity, supply chain resilience, and 911 communications. Moreover, they are promoted within the FCC’s statutory authority and without the use or need of Title II.  

CTT and FAI find the Commission’s assertion that Title II is necessary to “strengthen” its national security and public safety efforts is an unfounded, untheorized notion. The FCC has not raised the issue before; it is not described by defense or national security experts as a problem; and it is not mentioned in the academic literature.   

Importantly, the FCC delivers its national security and defense objectives through the Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the U.S. Telecommunications Services Sector, more commonly known as “Team Telecom.” Formalized by Executive Order 13913 in 2020, Team Telecom reviews certain FCC applications and licenses for national security and law enforcement risks. It was formalized because the FCC, by its own admission, does not have the authority, resources, or expertise to conduct national security reviews alone. The Order codifies the team’s leadership and process. 

The members of Team Telecom are the Departments of Justice, Defense, and Homeland Security. Its advisors include the Secretaries of States, Treasury, and Commerce; the Director of the Office of Management and Budget; the U.S. Trade Representative; the Director of National Intelligence; the Administrator of the General Services Administration; the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy; and certain Assistants to the President.  

For example, the FCC’s actions on China Mobile and China Telecom are the direct result of the cooperation with Team Telecom. Indeed, just two years ago, the FCC finalized its security review process of companies with foreign ownership, an effort which spanned two administrations and multiple federal agencies and which was adopted unanimously by FCC Commissioners. 

In the current proceeding, the FCC suggests that it will strengthen national security and public safety by classifying broadband internet as a Title II service and thus subject U.S. broadband access providers to a set of rules, licensing, and disclosures.  

CTT and FAI conclude that such arbitrary determinations do not further national security or public safety goals. Moreover, they frustrate larger national security strategies which encompass a “whole of government and “whole of nation” approach for collaboration across sectors. 

Should the FCC desire more authority to enforce national security and public safety, FAI and CTT recommend that it engage forthrightly with Congress. Indeed, the FCC was most recently empowered with Secure Equipment Act of 2021, legislation with authorizes the FCC to administer the Covered List for the approval, removal, and mitigation of insecure network equipment. CTT and FAI were pleased to support this process and legislation, which strengthened the FCC’s powers in a matter of weeks.  

Read CTT and FAI comments submitted in the first round. 

Read CTT and FAI reply comments.