Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

As yet another example of the U.S. government’s ongoing concerns about the potential vulnerability of U.S. telecommunications networks and supply chains, the FCC recently released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to prohibit the use of funds disbursed from the Universal Services Fund (USF) to purchase equipment or services from any providers posing a national security threat to the U.S. The USF distributes funds and subsidies to companies who provide service to unserved and underserved locations and low-income consumers. The NPRM dovetails with recent governmental actions targeting perceived Chinese threats to U.S. telecommunications infrastructure, including the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2018 (which prohibits the Department of Defense from using the equipment or services of certain Chinese telecommunications companies), the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’ (CFIUS) blocking of chipmaker Broadcom’s hostile takeover bid for Qualcomm, and the Department of Commerce’s denial of export privileges against a Chinese telecommunications manufacturer for seven years. It also precedes a recent report by the Wall Street Journal on May 2, 2018 detailing the possibility of executive action by the Trump administration to restrict Chinese companies’ ability to sell telecommunications equipment in the U.S. Chinese companies have already taken action as a result of this increased focus on Chinese telecommunications equipment, including one firm’s request for a stay of a U.S. order banning American companies from selling to the firm.
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