F.C.C. Plans Vote to Restrict Huawei and ZTE Purchases

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The Federal Communications Commission will vote in November on whether to bar cellular providers from using government subsidies to buy equipment from Huawei and ZTE, two Chinese companies, because of security concerns.

The vote would affect the money set aside by the federal government to help expand access to communications technology. Under the proposed rules, that money could not be spent on Huawei and ZTE gear.

The new rules would also establish a way to identify other suppliers that pose a national security threat.

“We need to make sure our networks won’t harm our national security, threaten our economic security, or undermine our values,” Ajit Pai, the agency’s chairman, said in a statement Monday.

The endorsement from Mr. Pai, a Republican, carries tremendous sway because his party holds three of the five commission seats.

The planned vote is the latest effort by the United States government to limit the reach of Chinese telecommunications equipment makers in the United States. The White House has already moved to ban the purchase of telecom products that it says pose a national security risk, a move that was widely seen as targeting Huawei. In addition, the Commerce Department has told American companies that they cannot sell to Huawei, although they have provided some companies exemptions to that order.

Huawei has pushed back on the restrictions, hiring new lobbyists in Washington and doing extensive public outreach. At a cocktail reception this month, the company highlighted the stories of companies that buy its gear in the United States.

“Banning specific vendors based on country origin will do nothing to protect America’s telecommunications networks,” said Huawei spokeswoman Michelle Zhou in a statement. “Today’s proposal, released by the FCC chairman, only impacts the broadband providers in the most unserved or underserved rural areas of the United States.”

Mr. Pai proposed tightening restrictions on Huawei and ZTE last year. The rules being voted on by the F.C.C. concern money, known as the Universal Service Fund. The $8.5 billion fund subsidizes phone, wireless and broadband service to poor and remote communities. Its money comes from small monthly fees on consumers’ phone bills.

Rural carriers have raised concerns about moves to crack down on Huawei gear, saying it will cut them off from a supply of affordable equipment. This year, a group of federal lawmakers proposed to create a fund to help smaller providers replace their Chinese equipment.

The F.C.C. will also vote in November on opening up a public comment period about how to handle the existing Huawei and ZTE equipment.



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