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US pushes to ban Huawei and ZTE from federal telecommunications networks

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted unanimously on Thursday (June 17) to push ahead with a plan to ban the approval of equipment used in US telecommunications networks from companies. China is seen as a national security threat like Huawei and ZTE.

Under the proposed rules that won initial approval, the FCC could also revoke equipment licenses previously granted to Chinese companies.

FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said the new measures will “remove untrusted equipment from our communications network… We’ve left the door open to use (Huawei and other Chinese devices)” in the United States through its device licensing process. So here we propose to close that door.”

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said the FCC has approved more than 3,000 applications from Huawei since 2018.

The FCC action would prohibit any future authorization of communications equipment deemed to pose a serious risk to national security.

In March, the FCC designated five Chinese companies as a threat to national security under a 2019 law aimed at protecting US communications networks.

A group of US lawmakers including Senators Ed Markey and Senator Marco Rubio praised the FCC’s action, saying it reflects the goals of the bipartisan legislature. They said the FCC voted to “put national security first by removing potentially dangerous Chinese equipment from US telecommunications networks”.

In addition to Huawei and ZTE, affected companies include Hytera Communications Corporation, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co.

A Huawei spokesperson, in an email, called the FCC’s amendment “a mistake and unnecessary punishment.”

Huawei said that “preventing the purchase of equipment, based solely on ‘judgmental judgments’, regarding country of origin or brand is null and void, discriminatory, and will not anything to protect the integrity of U.S. communications networks or supply chains.”

In August 2020, the US government banned federal agencies from purchasing goods or services from any of the five Chinese companies. In 2019, the US put Huawei, Hikvision and others on its economic blacklist.

Last year, the FCC designated Huawei and ZTE as national security threats to communications networks. The FCC then banned US companies from using $8.3 billion in government funds to buy equipment from these companies.

The FCC in December finalized rules that require carriers with ZTE or Huawei equipment to “take apart and replace” that equipment. The FCC also proposed a reimbursement fund for the program, and US lawmakers in December approved $1.9 billion to fund the work.

Rosenworcel said the FCC will vote in July to finalize the rules for overseeing reimbursement funds.

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