FCC tightening national security standards for device testing labs


A new proposal would bar entities that are “national security concerns” from receiving wireless equipment authorizations from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

By: Brad Randall, Broadband Communities

Republican and Democratic members of the FCC have announced bipartisan support for a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would hold impose strict national-security criteria to test labs and telecommunications certification bodies that approve wireless devices for the U.S. market.

The proposal, supported by FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, and FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, a Republican, will be voted on at the FCC’s next open meeting, according to a May 1 release from the FCC Office of Media Relations.

Commissioner Carr called the proposal “another significant step in the FCC’s work to advance the security of America’s communications networks,” in comments included with the FCC’s release.

“It does so by proposing to ensure that the test labs and certification bodies that review electronic devices for compliance with FCC requirements are themselves trustworthy actors that the FCC can rely on,” Carr said.

The proposal would add another set of rules to the FCC’s equipment authorization program, which was adopted after the Secure Equipment Act of 2021 was implemented. According to the FCC’s announcement, the proposal would prohibit the equipment authorization program from working with any lab or certification body with that is either directly or indirectly controlled by an entity on the FCC’s “Covered List.”

Entities on the FCC’s Covered List “are deemed to pose an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the security and safety of United States persons,” according to the FCC’s website.

The proposal, if adopted, would utilize a 10 percent ownership or control threshold, and a 5 percent reporting threshold to determine which telecommunications certification bodies and test labs are ineligible for use by the FCC’s equipment authorization program.

“Communications networks are a part of everything we do, and it’s why their security matters more than ever before,” Rosenworcel’s comments stated.  “So, we must ensure that our equipment authorization program and those entrusted with administering it can rise to the challenge posed by persistent and ever-changing security and supply chain threats.”

Entities on the FCC’s Covered List include Huawei Technologies Company, which last week had a test lab denied by the FCC for participation in the equipment authorization program, the FCC’s announcement stated.

“This new proceeding would permanently prohibit Huawei and other entities on the FCC’s Covered List from playing any role in the equipment authorization program while also providing the FCC and its national security partners the necessary tools to safeguard this important process,” the agency’s announcement read.

Huawei, which has been on the Covered List since March 2021, is a Chinese multinational communications conglomerate that produces smart devices and technology infrastructure. It is far from the only Chinese company on the FCC’s Covered List, which also includes firms like China Mobile International USA Inc., China Telecom (Americas) Corp., and China Unicom (Americas) Operations Limited, all of which were added to the list in 2022.

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