But Chinese law requires all companies subject to its jurisdiction to comply with requests from the country’s intelligence services and to keep them secret. That means China could compel Huawei to spy on American individuals and businesses. Imagine if a 5G network with Huawei equipment were operating near a U.S. military installation, critical infrastructure facility or other sensitive location. Beijing could demand the installation of a “back door” to allow secret access to the network, insert malware or viruses, and receive all kinds of information—without Americans ever knowing. Independent experts confirm the risk. A report issued this year by the cybersecurity firm Finite State found a majority of the Huawei firmware images it analyzed had at least one potential back door and that each Huawei device had an average of 102 known vulnerabilities.
When it comes to 5G and America’s security, we can’t afford to take a risk and hope for the best. We need to make sure our networks won’t harm our national security, threaten our economic security or undermine our values. That requires a comprehensive effort, one the administration has been undertaking, including through a May 2019 executive order.
The Federal Communications Commission, for its part, has been working at home and abroad with federal agencies, including the intelligence community. The next major step comes Nov. 19, when we vote on a proposal to prohibit companies that receive money from our $8.5 billion annual Universal Service Fund from using it to purchase equipment or services from companies like Huawei that pose a threat to the security of U.S. communications networks.
We also need to make sure existing networks are secure. Some rural wireless carriers that receive money from the fund have already installed Chinese equipment. That poses an unacceptable risk. So the FCC will consider another proposal the same day that would launch a process to remove and replace such equipment. My plan calls first for an assessment to find out exactly how much equipment from Huawei and another Chinese company, ZTE, is in these networks, followed by financial assistance to these carriers to help them make the transition to more trusted vendors. We’ll seek public input on how big this “rip and replace” program needs to be and how best to finance it.
Our goal is to close security gaps in a fiscally responsible manner. The stakes are a lot higher than basketball.
Mr. Pai is chairman of the FCC.