FCC Publishes New Equipment Test Lab Rules

Foreign Ownership Scrutinized


The proliferation of radio-frequency (RF) devices, including 5G networks, Wi-Fi routers, baby monitors, and fitness trackers, is pervasive in Americans' daily lives and integral to the economy. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is responsible for ensuring that these devices comply with regulations concerning interference, RF emissions, and hearing aid compatibility through its equipment authorization program. This program is vital for maintaining the integrity and safety of the nation's communications infrastructure.

To efficiently review the tens of thousands of equipment authorizations annually, the FCC delegates key responsibilities to telecommunications certification bodies (TCBs) and measurement facilities (test labs). These entities are tasked with implementing the FCC’s equipment authorization program, ensuring that all devices meet the necessary standards. Recently, the FCC has introduced new rules to enhance national security and protect the communications equipment supply chain, placing additional responsibilities on TCBs and test labs.

New Responsibilities for TCBs and Test Labs

The new rules established by the FCC prohibit the authorization of communications equipment deemed to pose an unacceptable risk to national security or the security and safety of U.S. persons. TCBs and test labs now play a crucial role in ensuring that such prohibited equipment does not enter the U.S. supply chain. Additionally, these entities are responsible for handling sensitive and proprietary information regarding communications equipment.

Given the evolving threats from untrustworthy actors aiming to compromise networks and supply chains, the FCC is proposing new rules to strengthen the requirements for and oversight of TCBs and test labs. 

Proposed Prohibitions and Oversight Enhancements

Specifically, the FCC proposes to prohibit recognition and participation in its equipment authorization program for any TCB or test lab directly or indirectly owned or controlled by an entity on the Covered List. The Covered List comprises entities identified as posing a national security risk. 

The Commission’s Covered List is published by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau and posted on the Commission’s website (The List of Equipment and Services Covered By Section 2 of The Secure Networks Act: List of Covered Equipment and Services).  

The FCC also plans to prevent reliance on any TCB or test lab with ownership ties to entities on this list.  The proposed rule notes that the Commission may also prohibit entities named on DOD's 1260H List or the Department of Commerce's Entity List.

To address national security concerns, the Office of Engineering and Technology (OET) is directed to swiftly suspend recognition of any TCB or test lab controlled by entities on the Covered List. This action aims to prevent such entities from using their labs to circumvent the prohibition on Covered Equipment.

Furthermore, the FCC seeks comments on prohibiting recognition of any TCB or test lab controlled by a foreign adversary or any other entity posing a national security risk. The Commission also considers whether to incorporate national security determinations made by other Executive Branch agencies when establishing eligibility qualifications for FCC recognition of TCBs and test labs.

Ownership and Control Reporting Requirements

To enforce these national security measures, the FCC proposes that TCBs and test labs report any direct or indirect equity or voting interest of 5% or greater by any entity. Additionally, the prohibition would be triggered by direct or indirect ownership or control of 10% or more. This reporting requirement aims to ensure transparency and allow the FCC to effectively monitor and enforce compliance.

To further bolster the integrity of the equipment authorization program and ensure the impartiality of TCBs and test labs, the FCC proposes to collect additional ownership and control information from these entities. This data collection will aid in identifying and mitigating potential national security threats.

Promoting the Integrity and Security of Telecommunications Certification Bodies, Measurement Facilities, and the Equipment Authorization Program

FR Document: 2024-14491
Citation: 89 FR 55530 

PDF Pages 55530-55542 (13 pages)


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