FCC’s pending vote on national security raises more concerns

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Nokia, the Rural Wireless Association and others are raising additional concerns about the Federal Communications Commission’s planned vote in April on a proposal that is designed to bar companies deemed a national security threat from supplying equipment to US carriers.

The issue is a complex one, but it largely centers on a proposal from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to block money from the government’s Universal Service Fund from going to telecom companies that use equipment from the likes of Huawei and ZTE, which have been fingered as possible conduits for Chinese espionage. While those companies have argued against such claims, momentum appears to be growing around actions that would further prevent them from selling equipment into the US market. Nokia, for its part, said  that it agrees with the FCC’s goal of securing the nation’s infrastructure, but that the agency should clarify certain aspects of its plans, including by providing further details on exactly what constitutes a threat to the nation’s security. Nokia also noted that “certain parties,” which the company did not name, have been using the FCC’s pending vote to gin up sales ahead of a possible crackdown on suppliers. Rural Wireless Association offered broader opposition to the FCC’s plans. The association warned specifically that the proposal would both fail to protect national security and “irreparably damage broadband networks (and limit future deployment) in many rural and remote areas throughout the country.” Specifically, the RWA urged the agency to focus on the creation of standards and a testing system to attain its goals rather than “imposing a costly and ultimately ineffective ‘country of origin’ prohibitory regime that would provide nothing more than a false sense of security.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the National Federation of Independent Business also registered its opposition to the FCC’s plans, arguing it would have an adverse impact on small businesses.


FCC’s pending vote on national security raises more concerns