The US Energy and Commerce Committee has almost introduced rules to ban Huawei from contributing components, products or services to communications infrastructure.
The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act has passed through the House of Representatives and now moves onto the Senate. Although only a small proportion of Huawei’s revenues are attributable to the US, the presence of such rules will damage the reputation of the firm.
“Securing our networks from malicious foreign interference is critical to America’s wireless future,” the Committee said in a statement. “Companies like Huawei and its affiliates pose a significant threat to America’s commercial and security interests because a lot of communications providers rely heavily on their equipment.”
The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act builds on efforts to ensure companies from countries in conflict with the US are no-longer allowed to participate in the construction or maintenance of communications infrastructure. The language is nuanced enough to create a broad scope, though this has been directed firmly at Huawei.
As part of the Act, telcos are prohibited from using Government funds to purchase equipment from companies deemed to pose a ‘national security threat’ and requires the FCC to create a ‘rip and replace’ financial aid programme to remove components which currently exist in the network.
“This bipartisan legislation will protect our nation’s communications networks from foreign adversaries and help small and rural providers remove and replace suspect network equipment,” the statement from the Committee continues. “We look forward to swift action in the Senate so we can send this bill to the President’s desk and protect our national security.”
What we are unclear on the for the moment is the definition of ‘national security risk’.
This is where the law and politics becomes a slightly suspect beast. Grey areas are the enemy of certainly and consistency, though it becomes difficult to nail down a specific set of definitions of what or who should be considered a ‘national security risk’.
In some cases, this is blindingly obvious, though it is the others where the intersection of the law and politics becomes dangerous. A lack of clarity in definitions and rules leaves the game open for nuance and interpretation, and when you have nuance and interpretation there is a risk of abuse. Without concrete definitions, anyone or anything could be argued by an appropriately slimy politician or lawyer as a ‘national security risk’.
There should of course be rules and regulations in place to ensure civilians are not put at risk due to oversight or preference of profits over public safety, but this approach to ‘maintaining’ national security does look to be half-baked.