FCC finalizes program to rip and replace Huawei, ZTE equipment in US

Federal Communication Commission Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel testifies before the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee at the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on December 05, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

In a unanimous vote on Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission completed a $ 1.9 billion program to tear down and replace equipment from Chinese telecommunications companies, which the US government sees as a national security risk.

The program is designed to subsidize the cost of small telecommunications companies in the US to replace equipment from companies like Huawei and ZTE to secure US networks.

To be eligible for the funds, US telecommunications companies must serve 10 million or fewer customers. This is a higher threshold than the previous 2 million or less in an earlier version of the order. Eligible companies who purchased devices from companies such as Huawei or ZTE before June 30, 2020 can request reimbursement of their replacement costs.

US officials have long complained that Chinese companies are obligated to the People’s Republic of China and collect sensitive information on behalf of the People’s Liberation Army. The Chinese Communist Party previously stated that it does not engage in industrial espionage. Under former President Donald Trump, the US blacklisted a number of Chinese companies. These included the country’s leading smartphone maker, Huawei, leading chip maker SMIC, and largest drone maker SZ DJI Technology.

To further isolate China’s Huawei, the world’s largest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment, Trump urged US partner countries to deny Huawei access to their 5G networks. The Trump administration specifically worked to prevent members of the Five Eyes intelligence group – the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – from working with Huawei.

Former Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo previously described Huawei and other Chinese state-backed technology companies as “Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence.”

In April, the Biden government added seven Chinese supercomputing units to a US economy blacklist, citing national security concerns.

The Ministry of Commerce has blacklisted Tianjin Phytium Information Technology, Shanghai High-Performance Integrated Circuit Design Center, Sunway Microelectronics, National Supercomputing Center Jinan, National Supercomputing Center Shenzhen, National Supercomputing Center Wuxi, and National Supercomputing Center Zhengzhou. The seven units were blacklisted for “building supercomputers used by China’s military actors, its destabilizing military modernization efforts and / or weapons of mass destruction programs.”

“Supercomputing capabilities are critical to the development of many – perhaps almost all – modern weapons and national security systems such as nuclear weapons and hypersonic weapons,” US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo wrote in an April 8 statement.

Huawei US Vice President Glenn Schloss said in a statement that the company was “disappointed” with the vote and called the program “an unrealistic attempt to fix what is not broken.”

“The FCC initiative presents airlines in the most rural / remote areas of the US with only exceptional challenges to maintain the same high levels and quality of service that they provide to their customers without interruption,” said Schloss, adding that the FCC “Politics” in an effort to make a geopolitical statement. “

ZTE and Chinese Embassy officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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