Rosenworcel Seeks to Add Two Chinese IoT Module Makers to ‘Covered List’

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel told Congress the agency is keeping an eye on Chinese IoT modules. At the same time, she asked several government agencies to consider declaring that Chinese companies, including Quectel and Fibocom Wireless, pose unacceptable national security risks, reported Reuters. Quectel manufactures IoT modules and antennas and provides certification services. Fibocom Wireless re-sells “5G wireless modules, LPWA IoT modules, and smart IoT modules,” according to its website. Their products enable IoT devices to connect to the internet.

Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Chairs the House China Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), is the Ranking Member. Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi asked the FCC last month to consider adding to its so-called Covered List. Federal funds can’t be used to purchase equipment from companies on the list, and the FCC will not authorize new equipment from companies deemed national security threats, Inside Towers reported.  

Rosenworcel wrote the FBI, the Justice Department, the National Security Agency, the Defense Department and other agencies, forwarding the request from the lawmakers. She stated 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.” Rosenworcel said the list “provides all companies making purchasing decisions clear signals about the security of products in the marketplace.”

Rosenworcel told the lawmakers in a letter last week that “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 issue is Chinese companies must turn over data from communications devices to its government, according to U.S. defense and national security officials.

A U.S. spokesperson for Quectel told Reuters once modules are delivered “Quectel customers own the data, and we have no access to any of the data collected.” Fibocom did not respond to a request for comment.

Inside Towers reported the U.S. previously placed 10 Chinese entities and one Russian company on the Covered List, including Huawei Technologies, ZTE, Hytera Communications Corp, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology and Zhejiang Dahua Technology. Last year, the FCC voted to revoke China Unicom’s U.S. unit, Pacific Networks and ComNet’s authorization to operate in America, citing national security concerns.

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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