December 4, 2023

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday proposed further restrictions on purchases of telecommunications equipment that pose national security risks and increased its opposition to Chinese providers of 5G wireless and other technologies.

The FCC unanimously voted to consider the proposal to ban US companies from all future purchases of telecommunications equipment from China by companies like Huawei and ZTE. It also suggested that the agency withdraw prior authorization to purchase equipment from the list of five companies considered a national security threat.

The agency’s actions demonstrate the bipartisan push in Washington to drive back China’s stronghold in parts of the telecommunications and technology supply chain. President Biden has continued the Trump administration’s tough stance on China’s use of its government-affiliated tech companies to monitor its own citizens and take leadership in cutting-edge technologies like 5G and automated manufacturing and driving.

The proposals set in motion a lengthy process that includes a public statement and eventual vote. Rural telecommunications companies that have relied on providers like ZTE for wireless technology have protested restrictions.

Jessica Rosenworcel, acting chairwoman of the FCC, said the proposal is aimed at securing US networks.

“Insecure network equipment can undermine our 5G future and allow foreign actors to access our communications,” she said. “This, in turn, can mean the possibility of viruses and malware infiltrating our network traffic, stealing private data, participating in intellectual property theft, and monitoring companies and government agencies.”

Huawei criticized the agency’s proposal.

“Blocking the purchase of devices based on ‘predictive judgment’ about the country of origin or brand is unfounded, discriminatory and does not help protect the integrity of US communications networks or supply chains,” said a representative from Huawei .

The agency will start taking public comments on the proposal and then, probably in a few weeks, go to the final vote before the four commissioners. It will take a majority of the votes to be adopted and is expected to find unanimous support.