The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has officially designated Huawei and ZTE as threats to national security. According to the official statement, both telecommunication giants from China poses a security threat to the integrity of US’ communications networks and the communications supply chain.
With this declaration, telcos are not allowed to use the FCC’s USD 8.3 billion Universal Service Fund to purchase, obtain, maintain, improve, modify or support any equipment or services that are provided by Huawei or ZTE. It was reported that the order to block telcos from using federal funds to buy equipment from Huawei was voted unanimously last November but it only went into effect on Tuesday.
According to the FCC, the designation is the latest step to secure America’s communications networks from the threats posed by Communist China and bad actors that might do its bidding. It added that the efforts include prohibiting companies linked to China authorities from connecting its communications networks, directing related entities to show cause why their authority remains connected to their networks should not be revoked and launching a proceeding aimed at removing Huawei and ZTE gear from US communication networks. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said, “We cannot treat Huawei and ZTE as anything less than a threat to our collective security.”
He added, “Communist China intends to surveil persons within our borders and engage in large-scale, industrial espionage. Nothing short of prohibiting subsidised Huawei and ZTE gear from our networks could address this serious national security threat. After all, Chinese law does not meaningfully restrain the Communist regime given its authoritarian nature.”
According to The Verge, blocking telcos from using the Universal Service Fund to buy equipment from Huawei and ZTE would affect smaller service providers that provide broadband access in rural areas. That was one of the reasons why Huawei was initially granted a temporary license.
The Chinese telecommunications company have yet to respond to the latest developments but Huawei has repeatedly denied security accusations and has insisted that it is independent of the Chinese government. Recently, the former Google CEO Eric Schmidt who is also the chairman of the US Department of Defense’s Innovation board had accused Huawei of unacceptable practices. He likened Huawei to signals intelligence similar to spy agencies like GCHQ and US NSA.
However, he said that the West must compete with Huawei by developing products that are better. There’s also a need to invest more in research funding and to ensure greater collaboration between private, state and academia.