Commerce Allows Continued Exports of U.S. Tech to Huawei

The Department of Commerce has extended for another 90 days the license that allows U.S. companies to continue to supply tech--like chips--to Chinese telecom Huawei, even though Commerce put the company on the list of entities "engaged in activities that are contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests" and thus off limits to such U.S. high-tech exports.

It is Huawei's third such 90-day extension. That last one was issued Aug. 19

“As we continue to urge consumers to transition away from Huawei’s products, we recognize that more time is necessary to prevent any disruption,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross back in August, and suggested Monday that was still the case.

“The Temporary General License extension will allow carriers to continue to service customers in some of the most remote areas of the United States who would otherwise be left in the dark,” said Ross in announcing the latest extension. “The Department will continue to rigorously monitor sensitive technology exports to ensure that our innovations are not harnessed by those who would threaten our national security.”

Related: Kratsios Says U.S., Allies, Must Confront Chinese Tech

U.S. National Security agencies are in agreement that Huawei's represents a national security threat, and there are efforts underway at the FCC and Congress to remove its technology from U.S. communications networks.

Huawei customers tend to be smaller carriers given that Huawei's prices are subsidized and thus more affordable.

Among the reasons Commerce cited for putting Huawei on the list were "violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), conspiracy to violate IEEPA by providing prohibited financial services to Iran, and obstruction of justice in connection with the investigation of those alleged violations of U.S. sanctions, among other illicit activities."

The FCC is scheduled this week to vote on an item that would prohibit the use of broadband subsidy funds for network buildouts that include tech from Huawei or ZTE.

The Trump Administration has signaled that Huawei and other suspect tech must be barred and scrubbed from U.S. nets, particularly given the build out of 5G, but the President has also sent mixed signals, suggesting early on that Huawei's status could be a bargaining chip in trade negotiations with China.

He also signaled reports of an extension of the license back in August were off base, before they proved true. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.