FCC reaffirms ZTE’s national security risk

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday formally denied the request by Chinese telecommunications group ZTE to remove the agency’s designation of the company as a national security threat.

The denial comes months after the FCC formally designated both ZTE and Chinese telecom group Huawei as national security threats, and banned U.S. groups from using funds from the FCC’s $8.3 billion Universal Service Fund to purchase equipment from either group. Huawei is currently in the middle of a legal battle disputing the designation.

“With today’s order, we are taking another important step in our ongoing efforts to protect U.S. communications networks from security risks,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.

Pai noted that the agency will vote next month on rules to implement a reimbursement program created by legislation signed into law by President Trump earlier this year. The program would provide funds for smaller U.S. telecom groups to rip out and replace suspicious equipment, with companies banned from using federal funds to purchase equipment from Huawei and ZTE.

“Now it is more vital than ever that Congress appropriate funds so that our communications networks are protected from vendors that threaten our national security,” Pai said.

Linda Fowlkes, the chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, wrote in the decision denying ZTE’s request that the action “furthers the Commission’s objective of promoting safe and reliable networks.”