Small ISPs Being Forced To Eat The Costs Of FCC's Huawei Ban

from the do-as-we-say,-not-as-we-do dept

We've repeatedly noted that while Huawei certainly engages in some clearly sketchy shit (like many modern US telecom giants), the evidence supporting the Trump administration's global blacklist of the company has been lacking. Despite more than a decade of accusations and one eighteen month investigation that found nothing, the Trump administration still hasn't provided any public evidence supporting the central justification for the global blackballing effort (that Huawei works directly for the Chinese government to spy wholesale on Americans).

While there's certainly some valid natsec concerns in the mix when it comes to letting an authoritarian government dominate global network builds, at least some portion of the effort appears to be protectionism driven by US network hardware makers that simply don't want to compete with cheaper Chinese gear. Some of the effort is also Trump trying to obtain leverage for his often ridiculous tariff and trade war, which at least, for some advocates, is driven more by partisan patty cake or bigotry than substantive reason.

Regardless, the US effort to blackball Huawei from all global technology networks continues apace, without much concern about (1) the lack of public evidence, (2) the fact that the United States routinely does most of the stuff we're accusing China of, and (3) much of this pearl clutching has been co-opted by US companies that simply want to avoid international competition (especially in the smartphone and 5G network realm), but have had great lobbying success disguising those motivations under the guise of national security hyperventilation.

There are other problems with the campaign as well. This week the FCC formally announced it would be banning companies that take taxpayer subsidies from using any Huawei or ZTE hardware in their networks. At the moment, the ban just prohibits them from buying new Chinese gear or maintaining it, but the FCC may expand eventually to forcing these ISPs to remove existing gear entirely. Smaller telecom and broadband providers were quick to note that they're not exactly thrilled:

"As a result, rural carriers who have deployed Huawei or ZTE equipment or services in their networks will now lack the ability to support their critical networks that are serving hundreds of thousands of rural Americans and those traveling through rural America. Given the difficulty in demonstrating where specifically their USF support is being utilized in their networks, this puts rural carriers in a precarious situation while they strive to offer extended payment terms for their customers as requested by FCC Chairman [Ajit] Pai, adjust to the fallout of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, and continue to keep rural Americans connected to broadband and telephone services during the COVID-19 pandemic."

Smaller carriers state that while the FCC is granting waivers, they didn't give carriers enough time to apply. And while there was also talk about helping fund these network gear removal and replacement efforts, that money appears lost in regulatory and legislative purgatory, according to FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Sparks:

"Funding is the missing piece. Congress recognized in the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act that many carriers will need support to transition away from untrustworthy equipment, but it still has not appropriated funding for replacements. I look forward to working with Congress and my colleagues to ensure there are sufficient funds to get the job done."

In the interim small ISPs have to apparently just eat those costs, at the same time they're being expected to maintain connectivity during a pandemic, which is... not great. Of course broadband subsidization has a long, ugly history where we throw billions at giant companies for doing less than nothing. Here we have the small businesses US leaders routinely pay ample lip service toward being forced to (for now) foot the bill for policy that doesn't seem fully thought out.

None of this is to suggest that the Chinese government and Huawei don't engage in terrible behavior. They do. But the US approach of a blanket global blacklisting is a cumbersome, evidence-optional mess. The UK and Germany have kicked back a bit against the US approach, arguing that existing security standards (where you judge the safety of each piece of hardware based on its actual lack of security or vulnerabilities) makes a lot more sense than a cumbersome, global blackballing effort based at least in part on protectionism, and so far justified by very little in the way of hard, public evidence.

There's also the hypocrisy of a country that routinely engages in all manner of sketchy global surveillance lecturing other countries on sketchy global surveillance. Can you imagine if other countries began blacklisting AT&T for the fact it's effectively bone grafted to the NSA? The amount of patriotic pearl clutching from fans of the blackballing effort would easily make your head spin. There's an underlying logic at play that because the US does it, it must be good, and the "do as we say, not as we do" messaging at play here gives off a ripe stink of hypocrisy.

Filed Under: broadband, china, competition, fcc, protectionism
Companies: huawei


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  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 10 Jul 2020 @ 6:58am

    'Hi Europe, ban Chinese tech as they may be spying. Buy American instead, at least you know we're spying so don't need to worry about what we might be up to!'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    virusdetected (profile), 10 Jul 2020 @ 7:20am

    It's not just about ISPs...

    There are more than 2,000 telephone companies in the U.S., many of them serving rural areas. These are marginal operations, at best, and they rely heavily on inexpensive equipment. They cannot afford Ericsson or Nokia switches (or the corresponding service contracts). Huawei is their only other choice. Banning Huawei simply drives them to being acquired by the large companies that provide terrible customer service and higher prices. That's just a lesser-known component of Pai's contribution to his Verizon/AT&T/Comcast friends. He is certain to be amply rewarded when he returns to his Verizon job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jul 2020 @ 7:26am

    How much of this is driven by US companies making it much easier for US security services to spy on US citizens?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jul 2020 @ 7:40am

    Who was it that said "the truth shall set you free". Was it Confucius?

    You know what's so interesting about Confucius? He was banned in China by Mao.

    Confucius was canceled.

    Tell the truth - it will set you free. You're being paid by Huawei, either directly or indirectly, to promote their self serving CCP propaganda.

    You're sellout, like Lebron James, and Nike. Sellouts to the Chinese.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Valis (profile), 10 Jul 2020 @ 8:27am

      Re: The USA is the biggest purveyor of propaganda on the planet

      Your insane jingoism is going to be your downfall. China is rapidly becoming the leader of the world, while the USA is fading away into irrelevance. And it can't happen soon enough for us. Bye bye USA 😁

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Jul 2020 @ 6:12pm

        Re: Re: The USA is the biggest purveyor of propaganda on the pla

        OK, good luck with that. Ask Hong Kong how they love China being their "leader of the world".

        You are honest, though, and good for you. I think you are wrong, but you really sound honest. Honest but seen as wrong would be great progress for many here.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Annonymouse, 10 Jul 2020 @ 9:30pm

        Re: Re: The USA is the biggest purveyor of propaganda on the pla

        China at the moment is not doing so well and is dusting off the ol war machine.
        They cut off their to major suppliers of pork and h1n1 just wiped out a large chunk of domestic production.
        Locusts in the south and west where it is record heat and rain is estimated at a trillion or so bugs.
        They are buying grain and feed for their quickly scaled up pork production from the same countries they blocked pork imports from. Australia caught a spy within their government and are in the process of digging out the rest supposedly.
        Chona is quickly loosing their resource imports.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Jul 2020 @ 9:18am

      Re:

      "Tell the truth"

      You first

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jul 2020 @ 7:51am

    The UK and Germany have kicked back a bit against the US approach, arguing that existing security standards (where you judge the safety of each piece of hardware based on its actual lack of security or vulnerabilities) makes a lot more sense than a cumbersome, global blackballing effort based at least in part on protectionism, and so far justified by very little in the way of hard, public evidence.

    That approach is certainly better, but it's long past time for us to stop trusting networks. If all traffic were encrypted—as cypherpunks were suggesting in the early '90s—the attack options would be mostly limited to denials of service. Cell towers hardly even need metadata beyond the TMSI and perhaps the home network ID. The UK banning Huawei from only the "most sensitive network areas" might be a sign we're moving toward this.

    (The problem with judging equipment security is that we'll eventually learn, retrospectively, that it was all insecure. Almost no popular software can last a decade without a severe exploit being found. Maybe, someday, we'll have actual software engineering, with liability for severe flaws; for now, we mostly pray that the first people to find the flaws are friendly security researchers rather than criminals.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jul 2020 @ 8:05am

    They know its infected because reasons they can't say

    We have every other equipment maker backdoored and have placed root-level hacking tools on the chips themselves. For this particular manufacturer, we can't get access to place those root level instruction protocols where software can't remove or detect them. Since we can't access it, we won't allow it because even if it isn't hacked by China, the fact that it can't be hacked by us as well means we won't allow them to deploy and probably do to us what we have done to everyone for the last few decades.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jul 2020 @ 10:00am

    The effect of this could easily force smallee ISPs into bankruptcy/liquidation, leaving more doors open for AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. That makes me wonder if this whole thing isn't instigated by them, assisted by the money grabbers in Congress who will do whatever to line their own pockets/ nests?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 10 Jul 2020 @ 12:04pm

    Capitalism and no one wants our products.

    Its very interesting to see HOW the USA works over what others are doing.
    WE take out laws and regs to let the Corps take over, and in other countries the regs keep them in SOME sort of line.
    Our corps make things out of the country because of the prices and wages in the USA being so high...but why? Modernization has made finding and gathering the materials Cheap, and in many of the other countries they are Gaining advantage by using the NEW automation's.
    We think we are an open country, but somethings are restricted by the corps. Not the gov. Our corps dont like change or to compete, Even tho most of our goods are being created in other nations. Most of the money, still ends up on Corp pockets HERE. Mostly by the markups they CREATE... IMO they have learned allot from the Move/music industry.
    Its really a Shame that little is created here anymore, that Any other nation would want. IMO our biggest export tends to be our food stocks. but even that is abit Stupid, as the USA wants to sell chicken in the EU, and most of them dont WANT it..and it would cripple the market/farmer/ranchers in those countries. (look up food as a weapon, who needs guns).

    Our corps are spreading to other nations, and Trying to get Their own ideals/concepts Enforced THERE.. Which tends to be, to collect 1 penny for every part of dist/sales.. And if you want to REALLY go deep into it, Why we dont like Socialism and other nations that are self sufficient.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jul 2020 @ 5:07pm

    in 2030, we'll be reading about how all the US network and communcations gear has been compromised by US companies on behalf of the government and large US network and telcom corporations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Smartassicus the Roman, 11 Jul 2020 @ 6:08pm

    Fuck'em

    I'm someone directly affected by this and I'll tell you what it boils down to:
    Forced install of gear with NSA back doors instead of the gear with Chineese back doors that can be easily patched without affecting performance.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Châu, 12 Jul 2020 @ 2:11am

    Open source

    If Huawei open source their hardware and software, independent people can direct examine security of Huawei products. Probably get some help improve Huawei products too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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