The US communications regulator has ordered some domestic telecommunications providers to remove equipment made by China’s Huawei, in the administration’s latest move against Chinese companies.
The FCC also began a proceeding aimed at removing China Telecom’s permit to operate in the United States.
The “rip and replace” order is aimed at the mostly smaller domestic carriers who rely on federal subsidies to offer service in rural areas.
The order includes reimbursements for the operators affected, although this funding must first be authorised by Congress.
The reimbursement package is estimated to cost at least $1.6 billion (£1.2bn).
FCC chairman Ajit Pai, a Donald Trump apointee, said Huawei had links to the Chinese military and intelligence services and to the Communist Party at “every level of the company—all the way up to its founder”.
He said “independent entities” had found that Huawei equipment was “far less secure” than that of other companies, and that Huawei was subject to “sweeping” laws compelling the company’s cooperation with the Chinese intelligence services and forbidding the disclosure of that cooperation.
The FCC is to publish a list of the communications equipment and services that must be removed.
While Huawei derives a relatively small income from the US, the move is part of a broader campaign against the company by the US administration that has included moves aimed at cutting off its access to computer chips and microprocessor manufacturing technologies.
The moves have had a severe effect on its smartphone handset business, leading Huawei to spin off its Honor budget smartphone brand earlier this year.
US pressure also contributed to a UK government order this year to remove Huawei equipment from the country’s telecoms networks.
Huawei denies posing a national security threat.
“This overreach puts US citizens at risk in the largely underserved rural areas – during a pandemic – when reliable communication is essential,” the company said.
The US and China are engaged in a broader trade war and Huawei’s UK director of communications, Ed Brewster told the BBC’s Newnight that the latest move was “about trade”.
The FCC also rejected a petition from Huawei asking it to reconsider its designation of the company as a national security threat, and began the process of revoking China Telecom’s authorisation to provide “domestic interstate and international telecommunications services”.
It asked the company’s US subsidiary in April to “show cause” why it should not terminate the authorisation, and said China Telecom had “failed to provide a satisfactory response”.
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