Technology

Bipartisan senators call on FERC to protect against Huawei threats

Greg Nash

A bipartisan group of senators on Friday sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) urging the agency to protect itself against threats created by using technology from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei. 

“As you know, the Intelligence Community has issued repeated warnings to regulators and political leaders about the dangers associated with using Huawei equipment on the nation’s telecommunications network,” the 10 lawmakers, lead by Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Angus King (I-Maine), wrote to FERC Chairman Neil Chatterjee, who oversees the country’s electrical grid.

“Congress and the Trump Administration have taken steps to eliminate Huawei products from national security sensitive applications, citing concerns with the company’s links to the Chinese Communist party, including its intelligence services,” the letter continues.

Although the majority of Huawei’s market is in smartphones, the company also has branches focused on solar power development. 

Huawei said in June that it would exit the U.S. solar market, but the senators, who also include Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), warned that FERC should not take the Chinese company’s word on the issue.

“While Huawei announced earlier this year that it intended to exit the U.S. solar market, there are no guarantees,” the senators wrote.

“Huawei’s line of solar products relies on inverters — devices that manage and convert energy produced by solar panels — for use in homes and businesses,” they added. “Huawei-produced inverters connected to the U.S. energy grid could leave it vulnerable to foreign surveillance and interference, and could potentially give Beijing access to meddle with portions of America’s electricity supply.”

The letter urges FERC to consider a “ban on the company’s entry into the U.S. inverter market.”

It also advises FERC to work with relevant agencies to develop defenses against potential vulnerabilities stemming from Chinese tech.

“In the meantime, we urge FERC and its new cybersecurity division to work closely with the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy and its National Laboratories, industry, utilities, and other federal, state and local regulators to curb threats and protect critical infrastructure,” the senators wrote.

A draft version of the letter was circulated on Thursday, and no changes were made in the final version sent to FERC on Friday.

Tags Angus King Jim Risch John Cornyn Mark Warner Neil Chatterjee Tom Cotton
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