By Katy Stech Ferek
WASHINGTON -- The Trump administration extended a license Monday allowing rural telecom providers to continue working with Chinese equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co. despite national security-related restrictions imposed six months ago.
The Commerce Department has added 90 days to the duration of a license maintaining business as usual between Huawei and rural telecom providers that have purchased and installed its equipment. Huawei has been largely cut off from working with U.S. companies after it was added to an export blacklist earlier this year.
The extension of the license, which was set to expire on Monday, prevents escalating new restrictions on Huawei's business during a key period for U.S.-China negotiators who are trying to work out a trade deal between the world's two largest economies.
Monday's news marks the second time Commerce Deptartment officials have extended the license.
Some lawmakers and national-security experts say equipment from the Shenzhen-based manufacturer could enable Beijing to spy on Americans. The company has disputed those assertions.
"The Department will continue to rigorously monitor sensitive technology exports to ensure that our innovations are not harnessed by those who would threaten our national security," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a press release.
In May, Commerce officials put Huawei on an export blacklist -- a move that has cut the equipment maker off from some U.S. chip makers and other companies that sent $11 billion of components to Huawei last year.
But after the ban raised questions about whether U.S. customers using Huawei equipment could receive service and support, or even communicate with the company, Commerce officials granted a license that enabled transactions to continue between a narrow slice of U.S. suppliers that send parts to Huawei and its division that works with rural carriers.
Huawei hardware makes up less than 1% of equipment used by U.S. telecom networks, but some of its gear has made its way into the networks of dozens of rural U.S. cellphone carriers and cable operators.
Amid growing national-security concerns, rural carriers face the possibility of having to rip out and replace Huawei's equipment. A trade group that represents them has estimated that it might cost $800 million to $1 billion for them to replace equipment within their wireless networks. A bill in Congress to pay for some of that cost hasn't been passed.
Write to Katy Stech Ferek at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 18, 2019 12:53 ET (17:53 GMT)
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