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FCC’s proposed ban on Chinese camera and video surveillance components

Following the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2019 Section 889 and the ban of cameras and components made by certain Chinese companies, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed a rule to ban products from Chinese electronics companies. 

FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said, “We are taking direct action to exclude untrusted equipment and vendors from communications networks.” 

According to the FCC, the proposed rule aims to guard against potential threats to the supply chain of equipment and services within the U.S. and seeks to protect communications networks. In addition to the proposal to ban Chinese-owned security equipment, the “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry” seeks comment on possible changes to the competitive bidding rules for auctions to protect national security. 

Specifically, the FCC is seeking comment on prohibiting all future authorizations of communications equipment that has been determined to pose an unacceptable risk to U.S. national security, as identified on the Covered List published by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau.  

The Covered List includes:

  • Telecommunications equipment produced by Huawei Technologies Company, including telecommunications or video surveillance services provided by Huawei or the organizations using such equipment.
  • Telecommunications equipment produced by ZTE Corporation, including telecommunications or video surveillance services provided by ZTE or the organizations using such equipment.
  • Video surveillance and telecommunications equipment produced by Hytera Communications Corporation, to the extent it is used for public safety, security of government facilities, physical security surveillance of critical infrastructure, and other national security purposes, including telecommunications or video surveillance services provided by Hytera or the organizations using such equipment.
  • Video surveillance and telecommunications equipment produced by Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Company, to the extent it is used for public safety, security of government facilities, physical security surveillance of critical infrastructure, and other national security purposes, including telecommunications or video surveillance services provided by such entity or the organizations using such equipment.
  • Video surveillance and telecommunications equipment produced by Dahua Technology Company, to the extent it is used for the purpose of public safety, security of government facilities, physical security surveillance of critical infrastructure, and other national security purposes, including telecommunications or video surveillance services provided by Dahua or the organizations using such equipment.

 

FCC Commissioner Brenda Carr said, “The FCC, through its equipment authorization process, continues to approve for use in the U.S. thousands of applications from Huawei and other entities deemed national security threats. Once an entity lands on our Covered List, there doesn’t appear to be any reason why the FCC should continue to review that gear and offer the FCC seal of approval. Taking this step as I first proposed in 2019, and then expanded on in March of this year, will strengthen our national security by preventing the further installation and use of insecure gear in our networks.”

If the ban goes into effect, the order will forbid U.S. sales of specific telecommunications and surveillance equipment from the companies named in the order, including Hikvision, Dahua, ZTE, Hytera and Huawei. 

Though the draft does not mention how quickly the technology would need to be removed, organizations utilizing the banned technologies will likely have a period of transition to remove banned equipment and begin using only NDAA and FCC compliant cameras and video surveillance technology, the FCC said.

When the NDAA ban took effect this year, it represented a significant upheaval in the industry, leaving manufacturers to scramble for replacement components to ensure compliance with the NDAA’s regulation. “Integrators, specifiers and end users faced a severe challenge finding compliant cameras that didn’t use any banned components. When they identify compliant cameras, the price, quality and time to implement becomes another hurdle,” Bob Germain, Director of Hardware Product Management at Vicon Industries, explains.

According to Germain, some companies have continued to sell banned technology because the NDAA regulations only impacted Federal opportunities. However, since the new FCC order intends to ban importing Chinese-manufactured security equipment, “these companies are now forced to find new suppliers, requiring a significant effort to find a balance of competitive pricing, quality and system compatibility.”

Finding a new camera line is a massive undertaking for integrators and end-users alike. Germain explains, “It requires extensive evaluations of price and quality, understanding installation and system compatibility, and even re-training their team on proper configuration and setup procedures.”

Under the new FCC ban, end users and the integrators that partner with the banned companies may need to replace cameras and find new manufacturers that don’t impact the price and quality they have come to expect. Germain warns that security integrators, especially, face price and quality discrepancies as they look for new suppliers, often torn between increasing prices or sacrificing reliability to remain competitive.

Both the NDAA and the proposed FCC ban further represent an upheaval for the security industry due to the significant influence of Chinese components within surveillance equipment. In the proposal, the FCC said it also might revoke its previous authorization for equipment from the companies, forcing schools and organizations to replace their current camera systems.

Germain says, “For manufacturers, they need to source new chipsets and other components to ensure compliance. On the other hand, integrators and end users must re-examine their existing cameras and their entire supply chain, forcing them to face tremendous complexities in analyzing price, quality and new implementation practices.”

 

 

 

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