The FCC Covered List And The Regulatory Challenge To Deliver Security

Brendan Carr met with Taiwanese authorities for foreign, digital and telecom policy last week, the first Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner to do so in Taiwan. As the country accounts for 90 percent of the global capacity for semiconductor production, he made no overstatement saying, “A free and democratic Taiwan is vital to America’s prosperity.”

Carr also reiterated calls for complete bans on TikTok (an undertaking likely requiring action by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) and the telecom equipment providers Huawei Technologies Company and ZTE Corporation. Separately Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) observed, “This is not something you would normally hear me say, but Donald Trump was right on TikTok years ago. If your country uses Huawei, if your kids are on TikTok … the ability for China to have undue influence is a much greater challenge and a much more immediate threat than any kind of actual, armed conflict.”

Indeed many Americans may think Huawei and ZTE are already banned, but that is not the case. While these entities have been restricted by the Departments of Defense, Treasury, and Commerce for certain federal and commercial uses, that does not stop them from shipping their goods to consumers. Indeed during 2018-2021, the FCC reported that it approved some 3,000 applications from Huawei for products using U.S. radio spectrum.

To its credit, the FCC has closed one loophole by banning Universal Service Funds monies for purchase of Huawei and ZTE. Going forward, the FCC is reported to reject all future applications of equipment authorizations from Huawei and ZTE, an enforcement provision the FCC was supposed to finalize within one year of the signing of the Secure Equipment Act. The law was passed by a unanimous Congress and signed by the President November 11, 2021, empowering the FCC to use its Covered List.

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