FCC wants to fine wireless carrier Truphone for ties to Russian oligarchs

The agency says the Montana company broke FCC disclosure rules on foreign investors.

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Amrita Khalid
April 21, 2022 9:34 PM
UNITED STATES - MARCH 31: Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel and Commissioner Brendan Carr prepare to testify during the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing titled Connecting America: Oversight of the FCC, in Rayburn Building on Thursday, March 31, 2022. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Tom Williams via Getty Images

The FCC's crackdown on Russian ties to US telecom is making headway. The agency voted today to fine Montana-based wireless carrier Truphone for not disclosing that it is indirectly owned by Russian oligarchs, reported Reuters. Any company with an FCC common carrier license has to receive approval from the agency before letting a foreign entity hold more than 25 percent of its equity or voting interests. For violating that rule, the agency proposed a fine of $660,639 and is requiring Truphone to repeat parts of the FCC’s vetting process.

The ownership of Truphone and control of its FCC licenses were repeatedly transferred to foreign entities without proper vetting by the FCC, according to a press release

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks told Reuters that the company has been indirectly owned by "a small group of Russian oligarchs since at least 2011 ... With the importance of the internet and the shifting national security environment facing our nation, protecting our communications networks has never been more critical."

One of those Russian oligarchs is Chelsea Premier League football club owner Roman Abramovich, who has been sanctioned by the UK, EU and Canada. Truphone raised $200 million from funds owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, making him a minority owner. The company acknowledged its ties to Abramovich in a statement back in April, and said an outside advisory firm would be reviewing its strategic operations.

Truphone is only the latest company to fall under FCC scrutiny. Last month the agency put Russian cyber firm Kaspersky Labs on its national security threat list, meaning that US firms are banned from using FCC subsidies to pay for its services.

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