Chinese cyber spying poses the greatest threat to U.S. telecommunication networks and internet freedom, former Trump administration Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai said in a recent interview.
Pai, who served as FCC chairman beginning in 2017, relinquished his post on January 20 to Jessica Rosenworcel, installed as acting FCC chairwoman by new President Joseph Biden.
Federal regulators will be hard pressed to secure telecommunications from Chinese state sponsored cyber surveillance, economic espionage and network malware attacks, Pai told Reuters.
“There are a number of bad things that can happen when insecure equipment is used to handle sensitive information,” he said. During his three year term, Pai supported securing the nation’s communications networks from foreign cyber intrusion, backing a ban on Chinese telecom suppliers Huawei and ZTE over concerns surveillance back doors would be baked into their equipment. In December, 2020, the FCC also moved to terminate China Telecom’s authorization to set up shop in the U.S.
As with Huawei and ZTE, the decision to exit China Telecom from the U.S. market did not come in a vacuum. President Trump had previously signed into law the Secure and Trusted Communications Act, which barred U.S. companies from using federal funds to purchase equipment from Huawei and ZTE, and establishing a program to reimburse small communications providers for upgrading to trusted pr ..