Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is speaking out amidst the ongoing NBA-China controversy that has sparked social media and political debates across the globe.
The controversy started when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong on Oct. 4, though he quickly deleted his tweet and apologized.
In response, the NBA and some of its more notable players, like Lakers star Lebron James, have been hesitant to say a single word against China’s communist government.
Pai, for his part, believes the controversy raises questions about the danger posed by China’s control over 5G wireless networks.
“If the Chinese government has such leverage over NBA stars and the league itself, that raises the question, how else can they can export their censorship, their anti-Democratic values and ultimately their control when it comes to even more important things like our 5G networks, the wireless networks of the future?” Pai said Thursday on “Fox & Friends.”
Pai is not alone in raising concerns over this issue — the European Union has done so as well.
In a statement released Oct. 9 by the EU’s governing body, the European Commission, EU member states said their assessment “identifies a number of important security challenges, which are likely to appear or become more prominent in 5G networks, compared with the situation in existing networks.”
In the technology world, 5G is a relatively new development that brings with it brings an abundance of upgrades for consumers, including the potential for smarter self-driving cars and better artificial intelligence in cell phones.
But there’s also risk.
“The roll-out of 5G networks is expected to have the following effects,” the EU statement said, including “an increased exposure to risks related to the reliance of mobile network operators on suppliers.”
“This will also lead to a higher number of attacks paths that might be exploited by threat actors and increase the potential severity of the impact of such attacks. Among the various potential actors, non-EU States or State-backed are considered as the most serious ones and the most likely to target 5G networks.”
While the statement did not single out China, it’s worth noting that many companies in that country are backed by the government and are not privately owned.
“In this context of increased exposure to attacks facilitated by suppliers, the risk profile of individual suppliers will become particularly important, including the likelihood of the supplier being subject to interference from a non-EU country,” the statement continued.
During his Fox appearance Thursday, Pai talked about how the Chinese government pressured Apple into taking the Taiwanese flag off its list of iPhone emojis that can be used in Hong Kong.
“Just imagine if we have 5G networks that power all of our industries that work for our military,” Pai said.
“What kind of leverage the Chinese government could exert over the operators here in the United States if they want information about how we’re doing business, how we live our lives.”
“That is a threat that I don’t think the American people are willing to live with and I am certainly not either as the head of the FCC,” he added
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