Wednesday, 11 April 2018 10:47

Small US ISPs say subsidy block to Huawei, ZTE counter-productive

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The US Rural Wireless Association has told the Federal Communications Commission that blocking subsidies to Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE would affect the deployment of broadband networks in rural areas and also not contribute in any way to national security.

The RWA represents rural wireless Internet service providers that offer home or mobile Internet service and have fewer than 100,000 subscribers.

Late last month, the FCC unveiled a formal plan to block subsidies to Huawei and ZTE for gear supplied to rural and small carriers.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said at the time that under the proposal, the organisation was seeking to bar the use of money from the Universal Service Fund to purchase equipment or services from companies that pose a national security risk.

Money for the Fund comes from small amounts paid by telephone subscribers along with their monthly bills.

The RWA said in a filing that "like the Commission, RWA and its members understand that the communications network supply chain is global. That is why RWA urges the Commission to focus its efforts on the creation of a standards and testing based system, and not on imposing a costly and ultimately ineffective 'country of origin' prohibitory regime that would provide nothing more than a false sense of security."

It said that any "serious defensive national cyber security strategy requires a risk management strategy and programme that address the risk from all suppliers of products and services to government and critical infrastructure, including the communications sector.

"Additionally, any such national cyber security strategy should be applicable to all communications networks in the US rather than targeting those relatively few communications networks funded in part by USF that use equipment from particular countries."

Contacted for comment, a Huawei spokesperson said that since entering the US market in 2001, the company had focused on providing local operators with innovative products and solutions.

"We help local operators extend network coverage to under-served rural areas and bridge the digital divide," the spokesperson said. "We are disappointed by the FCC's proposal. If adopted, rural operators will have fewer options available to them, and the consumers and businesses that depend on them will have less access to quality and convenient telecommunications services."

The spokesperson said Huawei had taken the lead in a number of technological domains after 30 years of continuous investment. "This is a great source of pride for us. We work closely with partners across the entire global value chain. We are committed to growing together, engaging in healthy competition, and producing the best possible products and solutions for our customers. These efforts should be recognised, not met with baseless suspicion."

The US began its efforts to force Huawei out of local contracts after a 2012 Congressional report alleged the company was a threat to national security, with a warning that Beijing could use its equipment for state-sponsored spying or cyber attacks.

In December, President Donald Trump signed a bill to ban Huawei and ZTE equipment from nuclear weapons systems in the US Defence Department. Last month, Trump also banned a takeover of US processor maker Qualcomm by Singapore-based Broadcom because of national security concerns; Huawei's ties to Broadcom were mentioned as a concern.

In the most recent US move against Huawei, multinational electronics corporation Best Buy said it would no longer stock the company's smartphones.

This comes after AT&T in January cancelled a deal to start selling Huawei smartphones on its plans and Verizon took the company's devices off its shelves.

The Huawei spokesperson claimed US authorities had made allegations against Huawei that simply weren't true. "We pose no security threat in any country. Huawei is a 100% employee-owned company. No government agency has ever tried to intervene in our operations or decisions.

"US authorities should not base regulatory or legislative decisions on speculation and rumour. Our products and solutions are trusted in more than 170 countries and regions. In 30 years, not a single operator has experienced a security issue with our equipment. This includes US operators."

The spokesperson added: "Today's ICT industry relies on global supply chains. To meet the real challenges of global cyber security, we need collaboration across the entire ecosystem. Hostility and closed doors never solved anything."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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