FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday formally designated Chinese telecommunications groups Huawei and ZTE as national security threats, blocking them from accessing FCC funds.

The move was the formalization of a unanimous decision by the FCC in November to ban U.S. telecom groups from using the FCC’s $8.3 billion Universal Service Fund to purchase equipment from companies deemed threats.

Both Huawei and ZTE were identified as national security threats in November, with the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau formalizing this process Tuesday.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, said in a statement that the decision was made “based on the overwhelming weight of evidence” against the companies.

“Both companies have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China’s military apparatus, and both companies are broadly subject to Chinese law obligating them to cooperate with the country’s intelligence services,” Pai said. “We cannot and will not allow the Chinese Communist Party to exploit network vulnerabilities and compromise our critical communications infrastructure.”

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, a Democrat, applauded the decision, but emphasized that action needed to be taken to rip out and replace existing equipment in U.S. networks that could pose a threat.

“Network security is national security,” Starks said in a statement. “Today’s actions will help secure our networks against new threats from Huawei and ZTE equipment. We must not, however, lose sight of the untrustworthy equipment already in place. Last year, I called for the FCC to find the untrustworthy equipment in our networks, to fix the problem by instituting a replacement program, and to fund the replacement of that equipment. Find it. Fix it. Fund it. The Commission has taken important steps toward identifying the problematic equipment in our systems, but there is much more to do.”