AT&T, Huawei Phone Partnership Killed At Last Second By More Unproven Accusations Of Huawei Spying
from the not-so-free-markets dept
If you remember a few years ago, there was ample hysteria and hand-wringing in Congress regarding Huawei’s plan to compete in the American cell phone and network hardware business. But despite near-constant claims by certain lawmakers that Huawei was an intelligence proxy for the Chinese government, numerous, multi-year investigations found absolutely no evidence to support this conclusion. That of course didn’t stop certain parties from repeatedly insisting that Huawei was a Chinese government spy, since we all know that in the post-truth era, what your gut tells you is more important than empirical evidence.
Never mind that almost all U.S. network gear is made in (or comprised of parts made in) China. Never mind that obviously NSA allegations show the United States spies on almost everyone, constantly. Never mind that reports have emerged that a lot of the spy allegations originate with Huawei competitor Cisco, which was simply concerned with the added competition. Huawei is a spy. We’re sure of it. And covert network snooping is bad. When China does it.
Fast forward to this week. A new report in the Wall Street Journal indicates that AT&T and Huawei were about to announce a new cellphone sales partnership at CES. While Huawei phones are available unlocked in the States (and Huawei has helped Google build its own smartphones already), the deal would have marked the first major partnership between the company and a major cellular provider. But the deal was scrapped at the last second for reasons neither company wanted to disclose to the Journal:
“It was unclear why AT&T, the country?s No. 2 carrier by subscribers, changed its mind. An AT&T spokesman declined to comment. A Huawei spokesman declined to comment on conversations with AT&T, saying only that ?Huawei has proven itself by delivering premium devices with integrity globally and in the U.S. market.”
A paywalled report over at the Information appears to offer the real reason for the last-minute scuttling of the partnership: namely a letter sent to the Trump FCC by members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees again claiming that Huawei is a spy for the Chinese government:
Huawei's U.S. smartphone deal with AT&T was killed just days ago due to political pressure, according to a person close to the deal. pic.twitter.com/elQennsmWW
— Juro Osawa (@JuroOsawa) January 9, 2018
While it’s certainly not impossible that Huawei is aiding Chinese government surveillance, the fact remains that there have been numerous, lengthy investigations into this claim (one of which was eighteen months long), none of which have actually resulted in the slightest bit of evidence proving the allegations. And again, what has been proven so far is that lobbyists for companies like Cisco have spent ample time pouring fire on these concerns in the minds of cash-compromised lawmakers, simply because they don’t want to have to face another deep-pocketed competitor in the US hardware market.
That is, as some guy named Mike Masnick noted on Twitter, something we’ve long enjoyed criticizing China for:
And then American companies complain when China blocks competition from American firms… And just watch as China points to this case as evidence for why America does the same thing. https://t.co/e7pRlacZf7
— Mike Masnick (@mmasnick) January 9, 2018
AT&T, no stranger to domestic spying (bone grafted as it is to the United States own intelligence-gathering aparatus) may have been willing to kill the deal out of blind “patriotism” or the belief it could help gain regulatory approval for the company’s $86 billion acquisition of Time Warner (currently being challenged by the DOJ in court). Nobody in this chain has much in the way of integrity or a history of truth-telling, and until evidence emerges that Huawei is the nefarious spymaster allegations have long alleged, a dash of skepticism seems warranted.