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FCC responds to the threat from Huawei



A Huawei sign exhibited in Zurich, October 15.


Photo:

stefan wermuth / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Thanks to recent events with the National Basketball Association,

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and others, Americans have become more aware of how the Chinese government is using its influence over global trade to export anti-democratic values. Imagine what could happen if we let Chinese equipment into tomorrow's 5G wireless network. It would open the door for censorship, surveillance, espionage and other injuries.

The next generation of wireless technology will provide an exponential increase in speed, response and capacity. It will transform every aspect of the economy, from companies to hospitals, transport networks to the power grid. The 5G networks will be built using equipment from a few global suppliers. The largest, the Chinese company Huawei, currently accounts for around 30% of the world telecommunications equipment market and is positioning itself as a private company.

But Chinese law requires all companies under its jurisdiction to comply with requests from the country's intelligence services and to keep them secret. This means that China could force Huawei to spy on US individuals and businesses. Imagine a 5G network with Huawei equipment operating near a US military installation, critical infrastructure or another sensitive location. Beijing may require the installation of a "back door" to allow secret access to the network, insert malicious software or viruses and receive all kinds of information – without Americans ever knowing it. Independent experts confirm the risk. A report released by cybersecurity firm Finite State this year found that a majority of the Huawei firmware images it analyzed had at least one potential backdoor, and that each Huawei device had an average of 102 known vulnerabilities.

When it comes to 5G and America's security, we can't afford to take a risk and hope for the best. We must ensure that our networks do not damage our national security, threaten our financial security or undermine our values. This requires a comprehensive effort an administration has made, including through an executive order of May 2019.

The Federal Communications Commission, for its part, has worked with federal agencies at home and abroad, including the intelligence community. Next big step comes November 19, when we vote on a proposal to ban companies that receive money from our $ 8.5 billion annual Universal Service Fund from using it to buy equipment or services from companies like Huawei that pose a threat for the safety of the United States. communications networks.

We also need to make sure existing networks are secure. Some national wireless carriers that receive money from the fund have already installed Chinese equipment. This represents an unacceptable risk. So the FCC will consider another proposal on the same day that would initiate a process to remove and replace such equipment. My plan first requires an assessment to find out exactly how much equipment from Huawei and another Chinese company, ZTE, are in these networks, followed by financial assistance to these carriers to help them make the transition to more reliable suppliers. We will seek public input on how large this "rip and replace" program must be and how we can best finance it.

Our goal is to close security holes in a financially responsible way. The stakes are much higher than basketball.

Mr. Pai is chairman of the FCC.

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