Huawei and ZTE face stricter restrictions after a unanimous vote in the US Senate

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The US Senate unanimously passed a law on Thursday that will prevent companies like Huawei or ZTE, considered a security threat, from receiving new device licenses from US regulators.

The Secure Equipment Act, the latest attempt by the US government to crack down on Chinese telecommunications and technology companies, was approved by the US House of Representatives last week with 420 votes to 4 and is now for President Joe Biden’s signature.

“Chinese state-owned companies like Huawei and ZTE are known national security threats and have no place on our telecommunications network,” said Republican Senator Marco Rubio.

The move would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from reviewing companies on the FCC’s Covered Equipment or Services List or granting new device licenses.

In March, the FCC classified five Chinese companies as a national security threat under a 2019 law to protect U.S. communications networks.

Affected companies included the aforementioned Huawei and ZTE as well as Hytera Communications, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology and Zhejiang Dahua Technology.

The FCC unanimously voted in June to advance a plan to ban licenses for devices on US telecommunications networks from these Chinese companies, despite the law.

The FCC’s vote in June attracted opposition from Beijing.

“The United States is still abusing national security and state power to suppress Chinese businesses without any evidence,” said Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, in June.

Under the proposed rules, which were first approved in June, the FCC could also revoke previous equipment permits granted to Chinese companies.

A spokesman for Huawei, which has repeatedly denied that it is controlled by the Chinese government, declined to comment on Thursday, but in June described the proposed FCC revision as “misguided and unnecessarily punitive”.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said the commission had approved more than 3,000 applications from Huawei since 2018. Carr said Thursday the bill will help prevent insecure devices from companies like Huawei and ZTE from inserting into American communications networks.

On Tuesday, the FCC voted to revoke China Telecom’s US subsidiary to operate in the United States, citing national security concerns.

© Thomson Reuters 2021

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