An FBI investigation into Huawei reveals that the Chinese telecommunications company used to install equipment on cell towers near military bases in rural America – even though it was not profitable to do it, according to a CNN report. The unearthed investigation sheds light on the U.S. government’s motive behind the stalled “rip and replace” program that is pushing for the nationwide removal of Huawei’s technology.
According to CNN, the federal investigation is centered on the possibility that Huawei’s equipment could intercept military communications, including those transmitted by US Strategic Command, the agency responsible for managing the US nuclear arsenal. It’s no secret that Huawei sold cheap equipment to small regional telecom providers in states like Colorado, Montana, Nebraska and Oregon, but, as CNN reports, it has raised suspicion among federal agents. As CNN points out, investigators found that these rural, low-traffic locations provided no financial benefit to Huawei, but were located near military bases.
John Lenkart, a former senior FBI agent, told CNN that investigators have begun to “examine [Huawei] less from a technical standpoint and more from a business/financial standpoint,” noting that he made deals with companies in places that “didn’t make sense from an ROI perspective. “. While the FBI reportedly found that Huawei’s equipment could technically disrupt military communications, sources close to the situation told CNN it’s difficult to track down stolen information to prove it.
In a statement to CNN, Huawei refutes any claims that its equipment is capable of interfering with US military communications. “Our equipment only operates on spectrum allocated by the FCC for commercial purposes,” Huawei told CNN. “That means it can’t access any DOD-allocated spectrum. [Department of Defense].” Huawei did not immediately respond to The edgerequest for comment.
A report of Reuters indicates the presence of a similar ongoing investigation by the Commerce Department that began shortly after President Joe Biden took office. The agency is also concerned that Huawei’s equipment could intercept communications from nearby missile silos and military bases. According Reutersthe Commerce Department could further restrict Huawei in the country if it deems the company a national security threat.
In 2019, the The United States has begun to crack down on Huawei and China-based ZTE fearing they pose security risks to the country unless telecommunications providers to use federal subsidies purchase equipment belonging to either company. The FCC later announced a remove and replace program to get rid of equipment that has already been installed – in three years, companies still use prohibited equipmentpartly because of a lack of funding.
Since the plan was first introduced, the estimated costs associated with replacing existing equipment have skyrocketed from $1.8 billion in September 2020 at $5.6 billion in February 2022. It’s a huge concern for smaller telecom providers who rely on funding to replace equipment from Huawei, a brand they likely chose because of its affordability. On Friday, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel sent a letter to Congress (PDF) explaining that the agency is $3.08 billion short of the money it needs to fully reimburse telecom providers. The FCC can only cover 39.5% of the total $4.98 billion required to satisfy telecom providers who applied for the program.