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Biden tightens restrictions against Huawei, ZTE

The new bill is designed to prevent companies deemed a security risk from receiving new equipment licences

US president Joe Biden delivering a speech in the White House garden

A new US law has been introduced that prevents companies that are seen as security threats from receiving new equipment licenses from US regulators, in what is seen as yet another crackdown on Chinese tech companies like Huawei and ZTE.

The Secure Equipment Act of 2021, signed by President Biden on Thursday, requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt new rules that prevent the authorisation of any equipment that poses an unacceptable risk to national security.

The new law was approved by the Senate on 28 October and earlier in the month by the House in a 420-4 vote.

The bill specifies that it applies to equipment already listed in the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019, meaning that it will apply to Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese tech companies that were named in the act.

The FCC ordered telcos in December 2020 to remove Huawei equipment from their networks, basing its decision on concerns relating to China Telecom’s and Huawei’s suspected ties to the Chinese government. This came after the US government officially declared Huawei and ZTE as national security threats in July 2020.

The FCC commissioner Brendan Carr revealed that the commission has approved over 3,000 applications from Huawei since 2018, as reported by Reuters. The law "will help to ensure that insecure gear from companies like Huawei and ZTE can no longer be inserted into America’s communications networks," said Carr.

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The FCC decided at the end of October to ban China Telecom from providing domestic interstate and international communication services within the US, in what it claims was a bid to safeguard the nation’s telecommunications infrastructure from potential security threats.

The FCC said that China Telecom is subject to exploitation, influence, and control by the Chinese government and is highly likely to be forced to comply with government requests without sufficient legal procedures subject to independent judicial oversight.

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