Huawei mounts legal challenge against US over rural carrier ban

The US Federal Communications Commission said that Huawei’s ties to the Chinese military posed a threat to US national security. (AP)
Updated 05 December 2019

Huawei mounts legal challenge against US over rural carrier ban

  • Chinese telecoms giant says federal commission ruling failed to provide evidence of a cybersecurity threat

SHENZHEN: China’s Huawei has mounted a legal challenge against the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) after the body designated the technology giant as a security threat and moved to bar it from a government subsidy program.

The FCC last month voted unanimously to designate Huawei Technologies and peer ZTE Corp. as national security risks, barring their US rural carrier customers from tapping an $8.5 billion government fund to purchase Huawei or ZTE telecommunications equipment.

Huawei said on Thursday it filed a petition challenging the decision.

The FCC argued the companies’ ties to China’s government and military apparatus, and Chinese laws requiring that such companies assist the Chinese government with intelligence activities, pose a US national security risk.

It also voted to propose requiring carriers remove and replace equipment from Huawei and ZTE in existing networks.

“Banning a company like Huawei, just because we started in China — this does not solve cybersecurity challenges,” Song Liuping, Huawei’s chief legal officer, said at a news conference at the firm’s headquarters in Shenzhen.

He said the FCC has not provided evidence to show the company is a security threat and that “this decision, just like the entity list in May, is based on politics,
not security.”

The Huawei document was not yet available in the US court filing system. It is not clear when the FCC decision will come into effect.

FCC spokesman Brian Hart declined to comment. On Wednesday, the body’s chairman said he will propose $9 billion in funding over the next decade to boost fifth-generation (5G) wireless telecommunications coverage in rural US areas.

US President Trump in May placed Huawei on the country’s trade blacklist, citing national security concerns, which banned companies from supplying Huawei with US components without special licenses. The move came after Washington brought criminal charges against Huawei, alleging theft of trade secrets, bank fraud and violation of US sanctions against Iran. It has also sought to convince allies to ban it from the 5G networks over spying fears — increasing tension with Beijing amid a tit-for-tat trade war.

The US is now considering approaches that will halt more foreign shipments of products with US technology to Huawei, Reuters reported last week.

Karl Song, vice president of Huawei’s corporate communications department, said the FCC rule threatened improving connectivity in rural America, and would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and even force some small carriers to go bankrupt.

Asked to comment on Huawei’s sales to rural carriers, Song said the firm’s US revenue was “minimal” compared with the $11 billion in goods that it procured from the US.

Alan Fan, Huawei vice president of IP strategy and international legal policy, said US rural carriers and groups submitted 90 comments to the FCC, 58 percent of which opposed action against it.


Motorhomes come of age as Europe relaxes lockdowns

Updated 12 July 2020

Motorhomes come of age as Europe relaxes lockdowns

  • This form of transport means freedom — and health and safety into the bargain

PARIS: After months of working on the frontline in the battle against COVID-19, Spanish nurse Yone Alberich was ready for a holiday, but the question was how.

Going on holiday generally meant flying abroad — but with the virus still very much in the air, she didn’t want to take a plane. 

Nor did Alberich want to stay in a hotel or be around crowds of people. So she and her husband rented a motorhome.

“The idea was to keep away from people to avoid getting infected,” said the 32-year-old, who has a toddler and lives in the Valencian coastal town of Castellon.

“And with COVID, what could be better than traveling around with your house on your back?“

With social distancing the new norm in Europe to avoid any fresh outbreaks, there has been a shift in thinking about holidays, with a recent survey showing 90 percent of Spaniards would remain in Spain rather than traveling abroad. And 83 percent planned to use their own car over public transport.

Fabrizio Muzzati, who runs specialist Spanish travel agency Aquiestoy Caravaning, said that many people who never thought about a motorhome holiday are now considering it.

“At a time when the whole world is very much looking for a sense of security, there are a lot of people who are going to give it a go because of the circumstances.”

And as travel restrictions were eased, motorhome rentals resumed “intensively,” the Spanish mobile home and campervan association ASEICAR said last month, suggesting it may be “key to reviving tourism this summer.”

And it is not just in Spain. “Since the rollback, there’s been a real craze for motorhomes, everywhere,” says Francois Feuillet, president of the European Motorhome Federation. “The motorhome means freedom, savings and being green. Now we can add health and safety and for us, that’s a real boon.”

Across Europe, there has been growing interest in the sector and today there are five million users and two million vehicles in circulation, industry figures show. In Germany, Europe’s main market, more than 10,000 new motorhomes were registered in May, an increase of 32 percent year-on-year, while France added 3,529 new registrations — up nearly 2 percent.

And in Spain, a much smaller market but where interest is growing rapidly, there were 1,208 new vehicles registered in June — up 20 percent on last year, ASEICAR figures show.

There has also been a jump in demand in the rental market.

Yescapa, a peer-to-peer rental platform, registered more than 32,500 bookings across Europe in June, with requests for July and August 60 percent higher than in the same period last year.

Of that number, just under a third — or 9,435 — were in Spain.Despite the reopening of Europe’s borders on June 15, most people are reluctant to go abroad, Yescapa co-founder Benoit Panel said.

“Since COVID, there have been almost no cross-booking rentals,” he said, referring to travelers booking outside their country of origin, who usually constitute 20 percent of reservations.

First-time renter Jose Pascal Guiral, who runs a ceramics export business and always holidays abroad, took a motorhome as soon as lockdown ended, spending a week touring scenic mountain passes in the Spanish Pyrenees.

“It’s so much nicer than going in a plane or a hotel, it gives you a real sense of freedom. You go for a week and you feel like you’ve been on holiday for a month,” he said.

Julio Barrenengoa Gomez, director of Caravanas Holidays, said that the crisis has increased interest in national tourism.

“People tend to want a motorhome to travel around Europe but this year, they’re looking to stay here in Spain. With all our desire to visit Europe, it seems like we’ve forgotten just how beautiful Spain is. This year is going to boost national tourism.”

Others believe the health crisis will accelerate a shift away from the mass tourism of resorts, cruises and package holidays.

“This pandemic will change people’s habits because they’ll be less likely to stay in crowded places,” said Fernando Ortiz, director of established Spanish motorhome brand Benimar.

“Not necessarily because of the risk — they will find a vaccine — but because people like being able to change their plans from moment to moment while traveling,” he said. “And that is likely to last.”