The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has dealt a new blow to Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE, alleging that they are both national security threats. With an official proclamation established, the FCC says that its Universal Service Fund cannot be used to purchase or otherwise support any services or hardware from either company. The move follows years of US government concern over potential espionage and security issues related to hardware from Chinese companies.
The US government has been expressing concerns about Huawei and ZTE — as well as some other popular Chinese companies like DJI — for years. We’ve heard rumors about these concerns for nearly a decade at this point, but they’ve become more official in recent years.
The US government has allegedly taken steps to prevent Huawei equipment from being established in the US and, more recently, has implemented certain restrictions against the company. In late May, it was reported that the Trump administration has extended an order preventing US companies from using telecommunications hardware from ZTE and Huawei until 2021.
In the latest turn of events, the US FCC has alleged that Huawei and ZTE specifically ‘pose a national security threat to the integrity of our communications networks and communications supply chain.’ This declaration is the result of a formal determination about the security risk, the FCC explains, stating that this move is intended to help protect the US from ‘Communist China and bad actors that might do its bidding.’
Under this announcement, the FCC says that any company that is linked to the Chinese government will not be allowed to connect to the agency’s networks; some existing companies will need to justify why their access to the networks shouldn’t be revoked, as well. Beyond that, the FCC is also launching a proceeding that will involve the removal of ZTE and Huawei hardware from its networks.
FCC Commissioner Carr said in a statement [PDF]:
We cannot treat Huawei and ZTE as anything less than a threat to our collective security. Communist China intends to surveil persons within our borders and engage in large-scale, industrial espionage. Nothing short of prohibiting subsidized 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.
America has turned the page on the weak and timid approach to Communist China of the past. We are now showing the strength needed to address Communist China’s threats. And our efforts will not stop here. The FCC will continue to take whatever steps are necessary to secure America’s communications networks from bad actors that would do us harm.