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$1.8bn bill for US to remove Huawei, ZTE from rural networks

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It will cost the US an estimated $1.8 billion to remove Chinese carriers Huawei and ZTE from the country’s rural networks.

This is according to US regulator, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which has released the results of its efforts to identify the use of Huawei and ZTE equipment and services in US telecommunications networks that receive support from the federal Universal Service Fund (USF).

In June, the FCC officially designated Chinese telecommunications companies, Huawei and ZTE, as threats to national security.

This as the trade war between the US and China, two of the world’s biggest economies, continues to rage on.

The US has frequently accused companies such as Huawei of being national security threats because of their alleged close ties with the Chinese government.

However, Huawei had dismissed these allegations.

In its latest statement, the FCC says the commission’s November 2019 order barring the use of USF support for the purchase of equipment and services from companies that pose a national security threat initially designated Huawei and ZTE as covered entities and directed commission staff to conduct this information collection.

It adds that in June 2020, the commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau issued final designations of Huawei and ZTE as posing national security threats to the integrity of communications networks.

Friday’s announcement includes a list of eligible telecommunications carriers, or their affiliates and subsidiaries that have reported using at least some Huawei and ZTE equipment or services in their networks, says the FCC.

Based on data that commission staff collected through the information collection, all filers report it could cost an estimated $1.837 billion to remove and replace Huawei and ZTE equipment in their networks, the regulator says.

It adds that of that total, filers that appear to initially qualify for reimbursement under the Secure and Trusted Communications Network Act of 2019 report it could require approximately $1.618 billion to remove and replace such equipment.

Other providers of advanced communications service may not have participated in the information collection and yet still be eligible for reimbursement under the terms of that Act, it notes.

“It is a top priority of our nation and this commission to promote the security of our country’s communications networks,” says FCC chairman Ajit Pai.

“That’s why we sought comprehensive information from US carriers about equipment and services from untrusted vendors that have already been installed in our networks. Today’s [Friday’s] announcement marks a critical milestone in our ongoing commitment to secure our networks.

“By identifying the presence of insecure equipment and services in our networks, we can now work to ensure that these networks – especially those of small and rural carriers – rely on infrastructure from trusted vendors. I, once again, strongly urge Congress to appropriate funding to reimburse carriers for replacing any equipment or services determined to be a national security threat so that we can protect our networks and the myriad parts of our economy and society that rely upon them,” says Pai.

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