Yesterday it was reported that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would soon vote on two days to prevent US companies from doing business with ZTE and Huawei. The first proposal aims to prevent U.S. telecommunications operators from using $8.5 billion a year in federal subsidies to buy equipment and services from two companies. The Universal Services Fund (USF), which was launched in 1997, is committed to subsidizing telecom operators to provide services to low-income families.
(Screenshot via Huawei)
The second proposal would limit the continued acquisition, removal and replacement of existing equipment by some rural wireless operators. Part of the proposal involves assessing the number of Huawei and ZTE devices currently used by operators. Financial assistance is then provided to enable it to transition to an alternative.
The FCC will vote on the proposal on November 19, and FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement released today that despite high expectations for 5G, the U.S. cannot afford security risks.
As operators upgrade their networks to next-generation wireless technologies (5G), they cannot ignore and accept the risks of exploits, implanted malware and viruses, and other forms of significant network communications.
ZTE’s observation period was extended until 2022 because of a trade bill violation. The company has no immediate comment on the FCC’s new proposal. But in a response to the foreign media Android Police, Huawei said:
During our 30 years of doing business in the U.S., we have operated in 170 markets, resulting in major security-related events. Huawei is trusted by more than 2 billion consumers, is a partner of many Fortune 500 companies, and serves more than 500 network operators worldwide.
Excluding specific suppliers cannot provide real protection for U.S. telecommunications operators by taking advantage of geography. The FCC chairman’s proposal, unveiled today, affects only broadband providers in rural areas where U.S. services are weak and underserved. Such actions would further widen the digital divide and slow the pace of economic development, but would not further safeguard The U.S. telecommunications network.
The FCC can recognize alternatives to addressing both issues — continuing to strengthen connectivity in these areas while actually improving network security in the United States — and unfortunately Ajit Pai selectively ignores globally recognized best practices. Huawei remains open to engagement with the U.S. and policymakers to find effective solutions to protect U.S. telecommunications systems.