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Is Huawei’s presence in rural America a threat to US national security?

Nov 22, 2019 - 3  min read

Knowing that it is impossible to separate Huawei as a giant telecom-network equipment supply company from the Chinese government, the United States’ Trump administration imposed a law that restricts business from being transacted between the goliath and any federal agencies. However, the business ban does not quite reach remote regions of rural America. Recognizing this vulnerability, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is now playing catch-up. A proposed plan will require US-based telecoms from purchasing equipment from Shenzhen, China-based Huawei; as well as Guangdong-headquartered ZTE (a top global producer of smartphones).

Will Huawei, with a global employee account topping 188K workers, simply pack its bags and go home? The financial stakes are, perhaps, too high. For over a decade, the company has worked its way into the wireless gear market, promising reliable, high-speed broadband across the fruited plains of America.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a not-for-profit organization, offers this view by Christopher Mitchell, a ‘community broadband monitor,’ “If you allow [your rival, unfettered access] into your network… They may [leverage the penetration they’ve gained] and actually threaten national security.” Calling this approach to modernizing rural America an “experiment” too important to run, he has called for “ripping out” equipment that has already been installed – some as long as far back as 2014.

By charging ridiculously low rates to enter the market was Huawei’s proverbial Trojan Horse. The alternative is to have Congress either invest, significantly, in American equipment for generational broadband upgrades, or simply allow US cities to continue their hockey-stick growth in Internet speed & capabilities that market forces naturally create in densely populated urban centers. Consumer advocate groups, joined eagerly by representatives from these Chinese companies, warn of “back-doors” being included in software that are manufactured by US companies to help the US government with its own data collection. Unfortunately, these accusations and counter-accusations have placed citizens in a bind, not knowing who is listening in to phonecalls, or mining data from our emails, texts, social media posts and online shopping behaviors.