Nov 22, 2019

FCC approves subsidy ban on Huawei and ZTE equipment

Photo: Paco Freire/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The FCC voted unanimously Friday to approve a ban prohibiting companies from using federal telecom subsidies to purchase equipment from Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE, deeming them national security threats.

Why it matters: The FCC's ban comes amid rising tensions with Huawei in the global race to 5G deployment and trade negotiations with China.

The big picture: Earlier this week, the Commerce Department handed Huawei a win by granting U.S. companies' requests for waivers to allow them to supply Huawei with components.

  • Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said she fears the agency's move could get swept up in broader trade issues.
  • "Despite our actions today, we have to grapple with the fact that at any moment the administration could trade away our security objectives for some momentary advantage in bilateral trade negotiations," Rosenworcel said.

Driving the news: The FCC ban would prevent carriers — many serving rural communities — from using funding from the $8.5 billion Universal Service Fund to purchase equipment or services from the two companies.

  • The FCC said the order is based on long-standing concerns about the two firms, including their ties to the Chinese government and Chinese laws that require them to cooperate with the government.
  • "If the Chinese government is willing to use its leverage over things like professional basketball and Taiwanese flag emojis, imagine what could happen if we allowed Chinese company equipment into our 5G networks," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said.
  • The FCC also approved a proposal that would require carriers receiving the subsidies to remove existing equipment from their networks, and seeks comment on a reimbursement program to help offset the cost of removal.

Go deeper: Why Huawei is the United States' 5G boogeyman

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Huawei gets a win on U.S. export waivers

Photo illustration: Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

After months in which the Commerce Department indicated it might ease some trade restrictions on Chinese tech giant Huawei, some U.S. companies are beginning to receive waivers allowing them to supply Huawei with components, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.

Why it matters: U.S. companies were making millions of dollars selling chips, software and other components to Huawei until the Trump administration put the company on a trade blacklist, largely over national security concerns.

Go deeperArrowNov 21, 2019

FCC to launch $9B 5G Fund to bolster rural coverage

FCC chairman Ajit Pai speaks at a rural connectivity forum in April 2018. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The Federal Communications Commission intends to launch a new $9 billion 5G Fund to spur deployment of wireless service in hard-to-serve rural areas, scrapping an existing program meant to spur 4G LTE service.

Why it matters: Each new wave of wireless technology has rolled out quickly in urban centers but faced technical and financial hurdles in reaching rural customers. The FCC struggled to get the previous $4.53 billion 4G program off the ground over the last two years amid widespread criticism that coverage data submitted by the carriers did not accurately reflect where there already is 4G service.

Go deeperArrowDec 4, 2019

Pai: FCC will auction coveted 5G spectrum

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai will direct his agency to auction sought-after airwaves for 5G services estimated to be worth up to $60 billion.

Why it matters: The path the FCC chooses will affect how quickly 5G services can be deployed using the airwaves, which are key for both wireless capacity and coverage, as well as how much of the money raised will go to the government.

Go deeperArrowNov 18, 2019