War for the Web
12 10.12

Telecommunications and National Security

The majority of telecommunications equipment is manufactured in China. There, I said it. China. China makes us nervous, China is an emerging super power, and looks to compete with us by allying with North Korea and pissing off its neighbors. It bought an aircraft carrier, and it’s building another. And now Huawei, a company heavily subsidized by the Chinese government, is the largest manufacturer of 4G networking equipment, and other telecommunications equipment, in the world. The Congressional Intelligence Committee has issued a report that strongly discourages businesses from dealing with Huawei or ZTE (another similar company) if they value their intellectual property and consumers’ privacy.

A 60 Minutes piece, and then a Reuters piece, and then The Verge, and bloggers everywhere began writing up the story. Even Bloomberg jumped into the fray. Huawei poses a threat to American security! Huawei poses a threat to American intellectual property! Everyone avoid Huawei.

Here’s the thing though, while it’s quite possible that all the accusations are true, it’s still ridiculous. Huawei is the only company doing this business right now. They build the cheapest components, and have the most offerings. So if we’re going to improve our wireless networks in the United States, then the chances are we’re going to be dealing with these two companies.

Also, almost all the networking equipment in the world has components made in China, probably most of their components. In addition, what about concerns about American companies? Let’s be realistic, the entire telecommunications infrastructure in this country is controlled by a few huge oligopolies. Most Americans have one Internet Service Provider, and there are very few rules governing their behavior. Our post last week outlined Deep Packet Inspection, and I’d like to point out that there are literally no protections for Intellectual Property transmitted over the Internet. If Huawei isn’t stealing it, then your ISP might be. There’s nothing to stop them.

The whole thing is ridiculous because we’ve already sold the Internet, not to China, but to American companies with their own technology that can without a doubt do exactly the same thing that everyone is afraid that China will do, with zero consequences. Yeah, it’s a threat to our national security to have all this stuff manufactured in China, but you know what else is a threat to our national security? A lack of Internet access, or slower Internet access than the rest of the world, or more expensive Internet access than the rest of the world. We already have those, so what is China really going to do to us?

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