FCC may soon ban the purchase of gear from companies that pose a national security risk
Ajit Pai, the current chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has recently announced that the agency may soon impose a ban on buying equipment from certain companies that pose a threat to America’s national security. Of course, the FCC Chairman had the tact to not explicitly mention by name who those companies are, but considering what Huawei and ZTE have been going through lately, they probably get the idea already.
Specifically, Chairman Pai is suggesting to implement new rules that would downright stop telco and broadband companies from taking full advantage of the Universal Service Fund government subsidy program to procure equipment, gear and services from any supplier or vendor deemed dangerous by the United States.
In his announcement, Pai had taken the opportunity to outline the potential threat of backdoored routers, switches, and other telco gear. Various industry watchers believe that companies like Huawei and ZTE may have resorted to these, but there has never been any indisputable proof. And while it is true that Pai did not mentioned these two Chinese tech giants’ names, he did however, refer to both in an earlier letter about the proposal.
For the record, Huawei and ZTE have strongly denied that they are working against the interests of the American government. Be that as it may, the United States’ intelligence agencies have been warning against these mobile brands since half a decade ago (back in 2012, the House Intelligence Committee had issued a report saying that Huawei and ZTE have been manufacturing gear that posed risks to national security). The Congress is even saying that Huawei in particular is basically serving as an arm of the Chinese government, and should not be making telecoms equipment deals with the US government.
It goes without saying that Huawei and ZTE will not be too happy with Chairman Pai’s proposal. Besides the fact that these two brands have enjoyed massive success in their native homeland, penetrating the United States mobile market has proven to be easier said than done. And they have been at it for years, with little success or mixed results. They have, however, struck various deals to supply telecoms equipment and gear, which is far better than nothing.
But now, those deals are in serious jeopardy. The FCC is looking to publish the draft of the proposed rules this week. The commissioners will then be voting to approve the rules on April 17th.