The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has published a new two-part plan revealing how it will remove Huawei and ZTE kit from US telecoms networks.
The plan focuses around the $8.5bn Universal Service Fund (USF), an FCC subsidy used by mainly smaller carriers. It’s thought that these firms, often located in rural areas, have invested or are more likely to invest in the Chinese-made equipment, as it is cheaper.
Under FCC chairman Ajit Pai’s proposals, the new rules would prevent any carrier using USF money to purchase from providers which pose a national security threat.
It would also require an audit of existing USF recipients to see how many have Huawei/ZTE kit in place and how much would cost to remove and replace it. Then, they would be required to remove the equipment.
The FCC said it would “seek comment” on how to assist these firms financially to replace the technology and transition to more trusted suppliers.
“When it comes to 5G and America’s security, we can’t afford to take a risk and hope for the best. We need to make sure our networks won’t harm our national security, threaten our economic security, or undermine our values. The Chinese government has shown repeatedly that it is willing to go to extraordinary lengths to do just that,” said Pai in a penned statement.
“Chinese law requires all companies subject to its jurisdiction to secretly comply with demands from Chinese intelligence services. As the United States upgrades its networks to the next generation of wireless technologies — 5G — we cannot ignore the risk that that the Chinese government will seek to exploit network vulnerabilities in order to engage in espionage, insert malware and viruses, and otherwise compromise our critical communications networks.”
However, as China and other countries ramp up roll-outs of 5G technology, there will be fears that the rip-and-replace approach adopted in the US may set the country back significantly, throttling the innovation and growth expected on the back of the coming networks.
Reports over the weekend suggested key US ally the UK is set to allow Huawei supply “non-contentious” parts of its 5G networks.
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