The US Commerce Department has granted a third 90-day extension to Huawei’s Temporary General License (TGL), pushing back the ban deadline to February 2020.
The credibility of the US Government is starting to look very feeble as it once again fails to deliver on a promise it made to its citizens on the grounds of national security. Since President Donald Trump signed the document to ban US companies from doing any business with Huawei, very little has actually changed.
“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 Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
“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.”
And while the Commerce Department might have the smaller, rural telcos in mind with this announcement, it might well be undermined by the FCC in a few days’ time.
On Friday, the FCC Commissioners will all vote on whether the use of funds from an $8.5 billion government programme to purchase equipment or services should be restricted. The restrictions would effectively ban the smaller telcos from working with companies who are deemed a threat to national security, in short, Huawei and ZTE.
The FCC’s Universal Service Fund is designed to offer government subsidies to smaller rural telcos which plug the gaps in the connectivity landscape. These difficult to reach, or commercially unattractive areas are often overlooked by the four major MNOs. For Huawei, these highly-regionalised telcos are effectively its only customers, though the have been targeted by both the FCC and Congress.
Alongside the ban from using FCC funds to purchase materials or services from Huawei or ZTE, Congress is also considering legislation which would free up an additional $1 billion for the rural telcos. These funds would be used to ‘rip and replace’ existing Huawei or ZTE components from the networks.
This is where the Commerce Department is slightly confusing matters; it is a complete contradiction from the actions of the FCC and Congress. Remarkably, as the FCC and Congress is heading one direction, Ross and his cronies seem to be pulling elsewhere.
And despite this seemingly being good news, Huawei doesn’t seem to be paying too much attention.
“Extending the Temporary General License won’t have a substantial impact on Huawei’s business either way,” a Huawei spokesperson said. “This decision does not change the fact that Huawei continues to be treated unfairly either.
“We have long held that the decision by the US Department of Commerce to add Huawei to the Entity List has caused more harm to the US than to Huawei. This has done significant economic harm to the American companies with which Huawei does business and has already disrupted collaboration and undermined the mutual trust on which the global supply chain depends.”
While we’re not too sure about the ‘significant’ damage done to US firms, though Huawei is surviving the assault from the US Government. It has lost out in some markets due to political pressure from the White House on allies, Australia and Poland for example, but this is not the economic dirty bomb which President Trump might have hoped for.
With another extension to last through to February 2020, the Huawei ban is starting to look very similar to Brexit. Not only is it looking more likely that it will never actually happen, the underlying rationale is starting to look feeble.
If Huawei is such a threat to national security, as many have been saying for years, why does the Commerce Department feel it is OK to offer such extensions. Why would Ross intentionally put US citizens in harm’s way? The paper veil excuse of national security to cover up the real goal is starting to look pathetic, but since when has logic made any material impact on today’s political elite.
With the White House failing to back-up the tough talk on Huawei, national security concerns being waved aside and other US agencies working to ban Huawei despite the extension, US politics is looking like little more than a shambles. A confusing patch-work of egos colliding and shiny teeth blocking meaningless statements.