New Bill to Ban US Government Agencies from Communicating Over Huawei and ZTE Devices Appears
Huawei hasn’t had it easy in the US, where it recently lost out on a deal with AT&T as a purported result of political pressure from the US government, and things aren’t looking up for the China-based smartphone maker. A new bill sponsored by Texas Republican Michael Conaway, “H.R. 4747 — 115th Congress: Defending U.S. Government Communications Act”, proposes barring all US government agencies from contracting any carrier which uses Huawei or ZTE equipment.
The likely motivation for the ban is a 2011 congressional investigation into Huawei and ZTE’s telecommunications business. Both companies sell network switches, radios, and antennas to carriers around the world, and the report concluded that both Huawei and ZTE were “directly subject to direction by the Chinese Communist Party.” Those allegations resulted in bans on government agencies from purchasing telecom equipment from the companies, but the proposed bill takes things a few steps further.
It specifically outlaws the use of the following by US government agencies:
Telecommunications equipment produced by Huawei Technologies Company or ZTE Corporation (or any subsidiary or affiliate of such entities).
Telecommunications services provided by such entities or using such equipment.
Telecommunications equipment or services produced or provided by an entity that the head of the relevant agency reasonably believes to be an entity owned or controlled by, or otherwise connected to, the government of a covered foreign country.
Now, keep in mind that the bill is far from becoming law. Assuming it makes it past the committee stage, it has to be passed by the House and Senate and signed off on by the President. According to Skopos Labs, a machine learning-powered forecasting service, it only has a 4 percent chance of being enacted — though that number is merely a guess based on the various factors surrounding the bill.
Still, for now, there isn’t a lot of reason to worry. Even if the bill is passed, it won’t affect most consumers — the ban only covers US government agencies and contractors working on their behalf.