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  • Hossein Nik

Huawei Still a Concern During COVID-19 Crisis

Earlier this month, President Trump signed the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act, which allocated $1 billion for the rip-and-replace of Huawei and ZTE equipment from smaller telecommunications providers’ infrastructure. This came after a Report and Order released by the FCC in November of 2019 designated Huawei and ZTE as covered companies, claiming that their ties to the Chinese government and military posed a national security risk to the U.S. Yet, the price tag associated with replacing Huawei equipment has concerned companies for months—and now, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC has agreed that $1 billion isn’t enough and has suggested they double the allocated budget.

On March 14, shortly after President Trump signed the aforementioned bill, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai requested $2 billion for the rip-and-replace procedure as well as an addition $5 million for administration expenses, suggesting that these expenses be added to the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill. The bill, which passed in the senate on Wednesday and soon made its way to the house, did not include Pai’s requested budget. Rather, it included a $200 million investment in telemedicine, which would support remote medical services.

Even with the current pandemic, removing Huawei and ZTE equipment is a critical task for telecommunications providers—but they’re having trouble doing so. It was troubling enough for providers to begin the rip-and-replace process before the pandemic began because, really, the process entails first building an independent network alongside the existing one and then shutting the old one down. But providers must now worry about the health of their employees and federal expectations for service levels, as signatories of the FCC Keep Americans Connected pledge must provide service to those who cannot make payments. Providers are also having trouble seeking vendors to replace network equipment, as many are unable to provide turnkey solutions in the allotted timeframe and within budget.

It’s clear that Huawei remains a concern even during the healthcare crisis. On Tuesday, Trump administration officials decided to limit Huawei’s access to the global chip supply chain. The proposed rule would require foreign companies using American chip-making equipment to obtain U.S. approval before selling equipment to Huawei. The FCC’s chief concern is government and citizen security, which is believed to be threatened by Chinese telecommunications equipment—and our security is more critical now than ever. Recently, hackers have used the COVID-19 crisis as leverage to send false information to American citizens and hack into people’s personal devices. You can read more about this here. Source: https://www.fiercewireless.com/operators/huawei-rip-replace-remains-priority-amid-coronavirus-pandemic

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