U.S. officials are discouraging U.S. telephone and internet companies from purchasing Chinese technology that could be used for surveillance, Federal Communications Commissioner Ajit Pai announced.
“Threats to national security posed by certain communications equipment providers are a matter of bipartisan concern,” Pai said. “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.”
Pai plans for the FCC to vote next month on a rule that would bar U.S. companies from using a federal subsidy program to purchase equipment from companies entangled with foreign intelligence agencies. The proposed rule is being considered in light of congressional concern that AT&T and Verizon might purchase phones or other hardware from Huawei, a company that the U.S. intelligence community believes is in cooperation with Chinese spies, reports the Washington Examiner.
Those operators are more likely to be tier two and three service providers (targeting rural parts of the US) than the big four (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon – which are already barred from using Huawei and ZTE kit).
However, the proposal seeks input on several key questions around implementation of the ban, including enforcement and penalties, how to recover funds used on banned equipment and how to deal with existing equipment from prohibited providers. The FCC is also looking for comment on how to come up with its list of blacklisted companies.
Officials said there are several ways the FCC could define prohibited providers: follow the approach taken by other federal agencies when barring suppliers; have an outside agency, likely with national security expertise, develop and maintain a list of threats; or take its list from congressional enactments barring federal agencies from purchasing equipment from certain companies.
The latter approach would impact Chinese vendors including Huawei and ZTE as well as Russia-based security company Kaspersky Lab, the officials said.
FCC officials said an important impetus for the proposal was a letter Pai received from a bipartisan group of lawmakers in December 2017 expressing concerns about Chinese manufacturers, including Huawei. Following a subsequent briefing with the intelligence community, the FCC decided to act to address concerns about the integrity of the communications supply chain.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk