The US communications regulator has voted to push ahead with further restrictions on telecommunications equipment from Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE.
The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to approve a plan that would ban any approvals for equipment from Huawei, ZTE and other companies deemed a national security threat.
Under the proposed rules the FCC could also revoke previously granted authorisations issued for Chinese equipment, requiring companies to remove the gear and replace it.
US authorities allege equipment from China could be used by Chinese authorities to gather data from US communications networks, something the companies say is not technically possible.
“We are taking direct action to exclude untrusted equipment and vendors from communications networks both at home and abroad,” FCC acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel said in a statement.
She said the FCC’s approvals process had “left open opportunities” for the use of Chinese equipment in the US, adding: “So here we propose to close that door.”
Huawei said in a statement that the action was “misguided and unnecessarily punitive”.
“Blocking the purchase of equipment, based on a ‘predictive judgement,’ related to country of origin or brand is without merit, discriminatory and will do nothing to protect the integrity of US communications networks or supply chains.”
The US and China have been engaged in a trade conflict since 2018, and the current Biden administration has vowed to maintain a tough line against China.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Car said the FCC has approved more than 3,000 applications from Huawei since 2018.
“Once again we urge the US to stop stretching the concept of national security and stop politicising economic issues,” China’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
A group of US lawmakers including Senator Ed Markey and Senator Marco Rubio praised the FCC, saying it had voted “to put national security first by keeping compromised Chinese equipment out of US telecommunications networks”.
In March the FCC designated five Chinese companies as posing a national security threat, under a 2019 law aimed at protecting US communications networks.
The companies included the previously designated Huawei and ZTE, as well as Hytera Communications, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology and Zhejiang Dahua Technology.
In 2019 the US placed Huawei, Hikvision and other companies on an economic blacklist.
The FCC has proposed a reimbursement programme for carriers required to replace Chinese equipment, and the US Congress in December approved funding of $1.9 billion (£1.4bn) for the programme.
The regulator is to take public comment on the proposal ahead of a final vote in July.
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