US media: US local governments insist on buying Chinese communication equipment

U.S. Axios News October 27 article, original title: U.S. governments continue to buy Chinese communications equipment  despite warnings Despite the federal government’s efforts to prevent Chinese communications equipment from entering the U.S. supply chain, a new report finds that U.S. state and local governments are still buying Chinese communications equipment. Continued purchases of these products deemed a threat to U.S. national security. State and local governments in the U.S. should better align with federal policy to keep these devices away from schools, hospitals and other critical infrastructure across the U.S., according to a report from the Center for Security and Emerging Technologies at Georgetown University.

In recent years, U.S. federal agencies have been barred from procuring products from five Chinese tech companies—Huawei, ZTE, Hikvision, Dahua and Hytera. But federal-level bans do not apply to state agencies. Only five U.S. states — Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and Vermont — currently have some restrictions on the purchase of such equipment on national security grounds. The report warns that there are loopholes even in these states.

The report shows that between 2015 and 2021, at least 1,681 state and local entities in the United States have purchased equipment and services related to the five Chinese companies. During this period, the total value of related technologies and services procured by these agencies was approximately $45 million. Of these, public school districts, colleges and universities accounted for three-quarters of purchases, while prisons, public hospitals and public transportation systems also purchased such equipment. From 2018, the number of these deals began to decline, the report said. But Jack Corrigan, a research analyst at the Center for Security and Emerging Technologies, a co-author of the report, said there were still more than 600 purchases in 2021 alone, and there was no sign that deals had stopped.

According to the report, which is based on procurement records collected from public documents, the purchases cover a wide range of product categories, including smartphones, surveillance cameras and network equipment. One of the biggest buyers was a mid-sized public university in Michigan, which spent more than $15 million in Huawei networking equipment and services over the seven years. Both Arkansas public school districts spent more than $1 million on Hikvision surveillance systems. The report did not name the entities.

Chinese communications equipment is generally cheaper than equipment from non-Chinese companies, making them an attractive purchasing option for cash-strapped U.S. local agencies. In addition, there is often a lack of technical expertise and procedures within local agencies to understand and respond to threats posed by foreign technology.

What will happen next? The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to ban the sale of any new Huawei and ZTE communications equipment in the U.S. on national security grounds, it was reported earlier this month. The ban has the potential to cover U.S. states and entities across the country. The FCC will also determine the scope of the ban on the sale of video surveillance equipment for public safety, which could affect several other Chinese companies: Hikvision, Dahua and Hytera. (Author Han Chen, translated by Cui Xiaodong)