US designates Huawei, ZTE as ‘national security threats’

*Huawei can secretly access telecom networks ─Security officials

*Bars American telcos from using Universal Service Fund to purchase, install equipment of 2 Chinese telecom giants

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

With immediate effect, the United States (US) telecoms have been barred from using federal funds to purchase their Huawei and ZTE equipment for use in the country.

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Tuesday, June 30 formally designated both telecom brands as “national security threats”, according to agency report.

It was gathered that the action henceforth would prohibit the US telecom companies from using funds available through a federal programme known as the Universal Service Fund to purchase and install equipment from either of the two Chinese telecom giants.

Ajit Pai, Chairman of FCC, in a statement said the order, which will immediately go into effect, was supported by a “weight of evidence” that the companies could “cooperate with the country’s intelligence services” to harm US communications.

Pai stated: “With today’s Orders, and based on the overwhelming weight of evidence, the (FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security) Bureau has designated Huawei and ZTE as national security risks to America’s communications networks—and to our 5G future.

“We cannot and will not allow the Chinese Communist Party to exploit network vulnerabilities and compromise our critical communications infrastructure.”

Recall that in November 2019, the FCC voted to “initially” designate the two Chinese companies as national security risks.

Tuesday’s order formalises the vote, according to the report.

Meanwhile, a report has indicated that the biggest risk might be faced by consumers in smaller markets where regional telcos use Huawei because it’s ‘good and cheap’.

The US security officials stress that they have cold, hard evidence that Chinese tech firm Huawei has backdoor access to mobile-phone networks.

They allege that no one, no matter where they live, is out of Huawei’s reach.

Robert O’Brien, United States National Security Adviser, in a new Wall Street Journal report, declared: “We have evidence that Huawei has the capability secretly to access sensitive and personal information in systems it maintains and sells around the world.”

The biggest issue US officials have had with Huawei is their claim that it can clandestinely access mobile and computer networks via networking gear that it sells to telcos.

US officials told the Journal that Huawei’s antics have been on their radar since 2009. However, despite that knowledge, the officials yet “declined to say whether the US has observed Huawei using this access.”

Liang Hua, Huawei’s Chairman, in his response to earlier insinuations at last year’s World Economic Forum (WEF), said: “If they (US) believe there’s a backdoor, they should offer evidence to prove it.”

Are U.S. consumers out of harm’s way? A research on the who, what, and where of this case, we found a multitude of telcos that use Huawei equipment, reports ConsumerAffairs.

FierceWireless’s latest report counted as many as 200,000 consumers across the U.S. as mostly getting their service from small and regional telcos that use Huawei equipment. Those telcos serve customers in Western Kentucky, Western Tennessee, Western Colorado, South Dakota, Nebraska, Western Kansas, Northeast Colorado, Montana, Utah, Idaho, and Northwest Dakota.

FierceWireless’ Tom Dano asked: “Why are so many smaller U.S. wireless companies working with Huawei, even after a 2012 government report warned that equipment from Huawei and ZTE could be used by the Chinese government for espionage?”

According to Dano, “that’s simple: Huawei equipment is apparently good and cheap.”

“It’s hard not to link all the current noise over Chinese threats to national security back to Trump’s brewing trade war with the country.

“It seems clear that (the larger telco) companies like ZTE and Qualcomm are probably being used as chess pieces in a broader game.”

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