The hypocrisy is one thing, but to jeopardize the economic benefits of high speed broadband for their own political agenda is more than regrettable
Chinese telco equipment manufacturers, Huawei and ZTE, are in the news big time this week with the release of a US Congressional report naming them as threats to the US national security interest.

Huawei CPEHuawei is the world’s second largest supplier of telco equipment and ZTE the fourth.  They are suppliers of equipment to most New Zealand telcos.  Mobile operator 2Degrees is building their mobile network using Huawei gear.  Both Telecom and Vodafone have used or are using mobile broadband terminating equipment from these manufacturers.  Chorus are using Huawei equipment in their UFB network build.  So their potential to spy on users in this country is not insignificant.  But is it a realistic threat?

Gareth Hughes of the Green Party thinks so.  He has done himself a huge disservice in parroting the US hysteria over Huawei’s ability to spy on the world.  Gareth wants the government to review contracts awarded to Huawei to “…protect our economy, information and intellectual property from cyber attacks.”

Clare Curran from Labour is more measured but still one to knock the Chinese for her own political ends and to then worry about the consequences later.

Communications and Information Technology Minister Amy Adams remains neutral over the cyber security charges. These first arose around a year ago when the Australian government acquiesced to US security concerns and banned Huawei from tendering to their National Broadband Network.

The New Zealand broadband supply contracts to these companies were presumably awarded because they gave the best price – benefit performance of any international tenderer.

So for us to act on these security concerns would result in price increases to broadband users, as well as a cost to the telcos for breaking contracts.

I have a Huawei wireless terminal supplying Vodafone’s rural broadband service.  I also have a ZTE usb stick for my Telecom mobile broadband service.  To suggest that either of these devices provides a means to spy on my Internet traffic is ludicrous and displays a woeful lack of practical knowledge on internetworking.

In any case, the possibility of spying on my electronic communications is easily circumvented by my encrypting data as it leaves me. Most of my internet data is already encrypted so governments, Chinese or otherwise, will have a hard time reading my emails.

Actually, it is the US government that is the greatest threat to cyber security as they are known to routinely monitor internet traffic and are likely to have the keys that would break any encryption lock I could apply.

No, the damning US report appears to have more to do with politics and covert trade protectionism, than it does with cyber security concerns.

The recommendations in the report are that American companies”…should avoid sourcing network equipment from China….”  Without providing supporting evidence for their claims, the committee has also recommended that the US block any attempts by the two companies to make acquisitions or mergers in the country.

With an election coming up, the Republican chair of the Congressional committee has seized on one of the issues, the threat to national security, that is more likely to polarise voter sentiments and so win his party office.

It is a sad reflection on our elected representatives that they would so volubly jump in to this US-centric issue.  The hypocrisy is one thing,  but to jeopardize the economic benefits of high speed broadband for their own political agenda is more than regrettable.