Friday, May 17, 2019

U.S. bans Chinese telecom tech popular with rural carriers

"President Trump signed an executive order Wednesday designed to bar U.S. telecommunications networks from using equipment from foreign suppliers, a move apparently targeting Chinese telecom giant Huawei," Richard Gonzales reports for NPR.

The move could stymie rural broadband buildout, since many rural telecoms use Huawei's relatively low-cost equipment. Though such hardware makes up less than 1% of U.S. telecom networks, many small rural carriers use it.

The order says that "foreign adversaries" are increasingly committing economic and industrial espionage through telecommunications technology and services, and declares this a national emergency. The order instructs Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to create rules restricting the purchase of telecoms tech from companies linked to or controlled by foreign adversaries.

Though no specific countries or companies are named in the order, the Commerce Department said Wednesday it's adding Huawei to a list that prevents it from buying components from U.S. companies without government approval. The administration has complained that the Chinese government could use Huawei tech to spy or snoop on Americans. In 2012 Congress banned the federal government from doing business with Huawei or another Chinese telecom firm, ZTE, Gonzales reports.

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