FCC Broadens Ban on Risky Communications Equipment


The Federal Communications Commission has voted unanimously on rules banning the importation and sale of communications equipment that could pose a threat to national security.

The regulator had already banned the use of such equipment in U.S. networks that get subsidy money from the government, but now is banning it entirely and at the FCC certification level.

“The FCC is committed to protecting our national security by ensuring that untrustworthy communications equipment is not authorized for use within our borders, and we are continuing that work here,” chair Jessica Rosenworcel said.  “These new rules are an important part of our ongoing actions to protect the American people from national security threats involving telecommunications.”

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The ban applies to equipment already identified as a threat to the security of U.S. networks under orders from Congress in the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019, which also told the FCC to come up with the more general ban. 

The ban also applies to modifications to certified equipment if the result is that it becomes a threat to national security.

Currently the list of “equipment non grata,” as it were, includes from Huawei Technologies, ZTE Corp., Hytera Communications, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology and Dahua Technology, as well as their subsidiaries and affiliates.

The new rules come in the form of a Report and Order, which is a final agency action, though still subject to appeal.

The FCC also launched a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking comment on other potential equipment rules and procedures related to prohibiting the authorization of potentially harmful equipment, as well as on any potential revisions to its competitive bidding program.

Some of the equipment at issue is less expensive — in some cases due to subsidization by the Chinese government — and so helped those competing for broadband subsidy money do so for a lower price. ▪️

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.