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FCC tells US companies not to use Chinese tech for telecom

Chairman of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Ajit Pai, gives a speech during a conference at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) held in Barcelona, northeastern Spain, Feb. 28, 2017. (Andreu Dalmau/EFE/Zuma Press/TNS)
March 27, 2018

In the continued fight against Chinese security tech threats, Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai stated on Monday that U.S. telephone and internet companies should avoid purchasing Chinese technology altogether for their businesses.

Intelligence officials and U.S. lawmakers for months have expressed concerns that new Chinese technology introduced to the U.S. might be used to spy on Americans.

“Threats to national security posed by certain communications equipment providers are a matter of bipartisan concern,” Pai said, the Washington Examiner reported. “Hidden ‘back doors’ to our networks in routers, switches — and virtually any other type of telecommunications equipment — can provide an avenue for hostile governments to inject viruses, launch denial-of-service attacks, steal data and more.”

“I believe that the FCC has the responsibility to ensure that this money is not spent on equipment or services that pose a threat to national security,” Pai continued.

The Washington Examiner reported that Pai plans to hold an FCC vote next month on a new rule that would eliminate a valuable federal government subsidy program for those U.S companies who continue to purchase equipment from Chinese tech companies.

The proposal was a product of a Congressional concern that AT&T and Verizon would partner with Chinese tech company Huawei to introduce their smartphones to the U.S. market for the first time. The network providers have since abandoned that deal, with retailers like Best Buy also canceling plans to bring Huawei products to the U.S.

“As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, it was made clear to me that Huawei cannot be trusted and would pose a security threat if given access to U.S. government networks,” Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican from Ohio, said Monday. “The FCC’s decision to not use Huawei products is an important step in protecting it from possible security breaches, and I fully support them in this.”

Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas who was an early proponent in the fight against the various Chinese tech giants, praised Pai’s proposal as a victory for individual privacy and national security.

USTelecom, a trade association representing the broadband industry, also echoed the concerns of lawmakers this week and pledged to continue to work with the FCC to address supply chain vulnerability issues.

“Consumers and businesses alike correctly expect their information is secure when traveling across networks, and USTelecom will continue participating in government- and industry-wide efforts to construct responsible, reasonable and effective solutions,” the association said.