Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai has presented a proposal last Oct. 28 regarding the safety of the nation's communications networks against companies posing a national security threat like the Chinese companies Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. with the introduction of 5G wireless technology.
Content of the Two-part Proposal
The two-part proposal contains a draft Report Order that forbids communications companies from using the $8.5 billion Universal Service Fund (USF) that they received from the FCC to purchase services or equipment from such companies. Additionally, it aims to establish a procedure for designating other suppliers posing a national security threat.
The second part of the proposal deals with a draft of Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) that requires 'eligible telecommunications carriers' to withdraw any present services and equipment while providing financial assistance to these carriers during the transition. Also included in this draft item is the assessment of the cost to remove and replace Huawei and ZTE equipment with the extent of deployment of the eligible telecommunications carriers in their networks.
Thinking Way Ahead?
According to Chairman Pai, Chinese law requires their companies to secretly follow their Chinese intelligence services' demands and so taking a risk that could harm the United States' national security is going to be a big problem. He also added that by upgrading to a higher-tech—5G—could be the chance for the Chinese government to "exploit network vulnerabilities to engage in espionage, insert malware and viruses, and otherwise compromise our critical communications networks."
This is also in support of President Donald Trump and the U.S. government's mission on banning devices, parts, and equipment made by Chinese wireless companies. To formally address the issue, Trump signed the Defense Authorization Act into law last year that prevents the use of Huawei and ZTE tech for U.S. government employees, contractors, and agencies, including the Pentagon. After what happened in the 2016 Presidential Elections, even the Democratic National Committee advised the candidates from both companies to prevent their staff from using such devices.
However, this was later followed by an executive order declaring a national emergency regarding the ban of sales and the use of telecoms equipment by "foreign adversaries." Although China wasn't named, it was indirectly pertaining to companies Huawei and ZTE.
Approve or Disapprove
On Nov. 19, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote in two separate parts. If the Report Order is approved, it would then result in the removal of companies Huawei and ZTE as recipients of their Universal Service Fund. Meanwhile, the approval of the FNPRM would have a greater consequence to the eligible telecommunications carriers that would have to remove their existing services and equipment from their networks. Furthermore, approval of the second part of the policy could be harder to attain at the side of the carriers operating at network providers, especially in rural areas. It is in these areas that Chinese providers are preferred due to their low prices, which are almost 50% cheaper than other equivalents. Arriving at an amount to pay telecommunications in rural areas just to remove, replace, and gain national security is something that we'll have to look forward to.