Tech industry: Huawei restrictions hinder U.S. participation in setting international standards
By Adam Behsudi POLITICO 02/19/2020 04:15 PM EST
The U.S. fight against Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei is having yet another negative and often-unnoticed, unintended consequence that industry officials say is excluding American companies from international bodies that set technology standards.
The blacklisting of Huawei has effectively banned U.S. companies from doing business with the Chinese firm. U.S. companies now fear that sharing even public technical information with Huawei will violate U.S. export laws, putting the Chinese company in position to drive the agenda when determining standards on everything from 5G networks to Bluetooth technology.
“This is an issue that is really a clear cut case of ceding advantage to Huawei,” said Naomi Wilson, senior director of policy for Asia at the Information Technology Industry Council, a trade association for U.S. tech companies.
U.S. tech firms are sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s moves to punish Huawei are having broader consequences for the ability of U.S. companies to do business in the Chinese market and maintain global dominance in certain sectors.
U.S. semiconductor manufacturers have argued that export restrictions on non-sensitive, commercially available chips to Huawei are depriving companies of revenue for further research and development required to stay on the forefront of sensitive chip technology used by the U.S. military.
This week, President Donald Trump signaled he would pull back on multiple proposals that would further restrict exports of computer chips, jet engines and potentially other items to China for national security reasons.
“I have seen some of the regulations being circulated, including those being contemplated by Congress, and they are ridiculous,” Trump wrote Tuesday in a string of tweets. “I want to make it EASY to do business with the United States, not difficult. Everyone in my Administration is being so instructed, with no excuses.”
Now, U.S. companies say they need more clarity on an existing regulation before they can continue contributing information for the development of international technology standards.
“The U.S. government’s broad application of export controls to standards development limits the abilities of U.S. companies to influence global standards,” said Patrick Lozada, director of global policy for the Telecommunications Industry Association.
“The Commerce Department can support American leadership in this area,” he explained, “by providing clearer guidance about what actions are covered and make it clear that participation in open standards-setting work is not intended to be prohibited under these controls.”
Critics of the administration’s policies point to the decision last year by RISC-V, a nonprofit foundation that brings together companies from around the world to set standards on certain semiconductors, to move from Delaware to Switzerland.
The Commerce Department issued a temporary waiver known as a temporary general license, which it renewed this week, that has allowed some limited business interaction with Huawei. That includes the exchange of technological information or software for the development of 5G standards as long as the item isn’t controlled under U.S. export regulations.
Still, the waiver raised more questions than answers for U.S. companies.
Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security subsequently issued an advisory opinion providing some guidance on what activities under the temporary license would be explicitly prohibited within standards-setting bodies. The opinion provided a non-exhaustive list of prohibited activities.
The advisory opinion clarified that any U.S. technology or software subject to restrictions under the Export Administration Regulations would be prohibited from being shared with Huawei, but companies say it’s still unclear whether that applies to “published” information distributed at standards-setting bodies.
Some U.S. companies are seeking positive examples of what would be permitted as well as clarity on whether technology or software published or made public for the purpose of standards-setting activities can’t be shared with Huawei.
Commerce had been expected to issue a clarifying statement in December or January, but one person close to the process said a document that had been cleared at the staff level at Commerce and at the National Institute of Standards and Technology was killed at the political level over concerns it could lead to the sharing of sensitive information with Huawei.
A spokesperson for BIS didn’t immediately return a request for comment..
“There’s a massive amount of confusion,” said an attorney representing U.S. companies trying to navigate the administration’s export restrictions against Huawei.
FAA’s Proposed Remote Identification Rules Would Affect Drones, Hobby Planes
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is proposing to require remote identification of so-called “unmanned aircraft systems” (UAS), which include drones and hobby aircraft. Comments on the Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) in Docket FAA-2019-11, are due by March 2.
“The remote identification of unmanned aircraft systems in the airspace of the United States would address safety, national security, and law enforcement concerns regarding the further integration of these aircraft into the airspace of the United States while also enabling greater operational capabilities,” the FAA said in proposing the new requirements.
The FAA defines remote identification, or Remote ID, as the ability of an in-flight unmanned aircraft “to provide certain identification and location information that people on the ground and other airspace users can receive.” The FAA called the move “an important building block in the unmanned traffic management ecosystem.”
“For example, the ability to identify and locate UAS operating in the airspace of the United States provides additional situational awareness to manned and unmanned aircraft,” the FAA said. “This will become even more important as the number of UAS operations in all classes of airspace increases. In addition, the ability to identify and locate UAS provides critical information to law enforcement and other officials charged with ensuring public safety.”
The FAA said it envisions that the remote identification network “will form the foundation for the development of other technologies that can enable expanded operations.”
With few exceptions, all UAS operating in US airspace would be subject to the rule’s requirements and would have to comply, “regardless of whether they conduct recreational or commercial operations, except those flying UAS that are not otherwise required to be registered under the FAA’s existing rules.”
To comment, click on the “Submit a Formal Comment” button on the top of the Federal Register page that includes the NPRM text.
Matsui, Eshoo, Thompson, Huffman Introduce Bill to Improve Emergency Response Communications Networks
Congresswoman Doris Matsui (CA-06) and Representatives Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18), Mike Thompson (CA-05), and Jared Huffman (CA-02) introduced the Emergency Reporting Act (H.R. 5918), a bill that will improve the resiliency of communications networks during emergencies.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has an obligation to assist state and local governments in preparing for, responding to, and learning from major disasters. However, the agency’s response to major disasters has been inconsistent. As the number and severity of California wildfires increases, it is critical that the FCC responds adequately and swiftly. By requiring field hearings, reporting, and policy recommendations, the Emergency Reporting Act will help ensure that all disasters, regardless of their location, receive the necessary time and resources from the FCC.
Additionally, the Emergency Reporting Act would improve standards that require mobile carriers to report network outages to 911 centers. While existing outage reporting requirements exist at the FCC, the notification threshold is high and can lead to situations in which 911 centers are left in the dark about service outages in their territory, jeopardizing public safety.
“During an emergency, the ability to call 911 is a matter of life and death,” said Congresswoman Matsui. “By ensuring the FCC is supporting state and local governments prepare for, respond to, and learn from major disasters we can help ensure our communications networks are equipped to handle major disasters like wildfires moving forward. The Emergency Reporting Act also takes crucial steps to improve the flow of information to 911 centers about communications outages. This will provide 911 centers and first responders with the information they need to protect communities and save lives.”
“The integrity of our telecommunications networks must withstand natural disasters to ensure that those in danger have a lifeline to emergency services,” said Rep. Eshoo. “I’m proud to sponsor the Emergency Reporting Act to require comprehensive reporting on network outages after disasters and improve information sharing between wireless companies and 9-1-1 dispatchers. The new reporting requirements will ensure that the weak spots in our communications networks are addressed before future emergencies, and information sharing will alert 9-1-1 operators when calls are no longer reaching their stations, which will save lives.”
“When people call 911 during a disaster like our recent wildfires, they want to know they can get help quickly and efficiently,” said Rep. Thompson. “That’s why I am proud to join Rep. Doris Matsui as an original cosponsor of the Emergency Reporting Act. This bill will help local and state governments better respond and prepare for emergencies and I will do everything I can to move it forward and get signed into law so our community is better able to respond in case of a disaster.”
“When disasters strike, first responders and the public depend on their mobile networks and communication systems,” said Rep. Huffman. “During the wildfires last fall, PG&E’s blackouts cut cell service for thousands of Californians, knocking out 57% of the towers in Marin during critical times. People shouldn’t have to worry about being able to reach out for help or contact loved ones during an emergency. The Federal Communications Commission needs to ensure that it is systematically addressing the danger of communications outages during a disaster, and this new legislation will give them the direction they need to respond to future outages and make our communities more resilient.”
Below is a summary of the Bill. (Search H.R. 5918 to read the entire Bill.)
The Bill targets the ineffective, lagging, and inconsistent response times of the FCC and charges them to issue reports after activation of the Disaster Information Reporting System and to make improvements to network outage reporting.
- No later than 6 weeks after the deactivation of the Disaster Information Reporting System, the FCC shall issue a preliminary report on:
- The number and duration of any outages of
- Broadband Internet Access Services
- Interconnected VoIP Services
- Commercial Mobile Services (Cellphones)
- The number of users affected by an outage described previously
- The number and duration of any outages at public safety answering points that prevent public safety answering points from receiving emergency calls and routing such calls to emergency service personnel
- Initial recovery efforts related to communications networks
- Any additional information determined appropriate by the FCC
In terms of Public Field Hearings:
- Not later than 4 months after the deactivation of the Disaster Information Reporting System, the FCC shall hold at least one public field hearing in communities affected by such event
- For each such public field hearing, the Commission shall consider:
- Representatives of State governments, local governments, or Indian Tribal governments in areas affected by such event
- Residents of the areas affected by such event or consumer advocates
- Providers of broadband internet access service
- Faculty of institutions of Higher Education
- Representatives of other Federal agencies
- Electric utility providers
- Telecommunications infrastructure companies
- First responders, emergency managers, or 911 directors in areas affected
- No later than 8 months after the deactivation of the Disaster Information Reporting System, the FCC shall issue a final report that includes:
- The information gathered in the General Section
- Any recommendations on how to improve the resiliency of affected communications or networks recovery efforts
To Improving Network Outage Reporting:
- No later than 6 months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Commission shall initiate a rule making to:
- Determine the circumstances under which to require providers of commercial mobile service to provide alerts to public safety answering points regarding communications service disruptions of cellphones within the assigned territories of such answering points that prevent:
- The origination of 911 calls
- The delivery of Automatic Location Information