UK government tightening telco security laws
The UK government is set to pass a new law aiming to increase the cybersecurity standards of the country’s telecoms networks.
The law will give the government “unprecedented new powers to boost security standards”, as well as to order the removal of high-risk vendors. The new law will lay out a much stricter framework for both 5G and fibre, with major fines of up to 10% of turnover or up to £100,000 a day for operators who fail to meet these requirements. Ofcom will be in charge of ensuring that these new stipulations are followed, as well as punishing those that do not abide by the rules.
The government attributed this new law to an increasing need to protect the UK’s networks from malicious attacks from abroad, citing a growing number of instances involving Russia, China, North Korea and Iran over the past two years.
“This groundbreaking bill will give the UK one of the toughest telecoms security regimes in the world and allow us to take the action necessary to protect our networks,” said Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden.
In many ways this new security law comes too late. The UK government already exercised its considerable might earlier in the year with its two decisions over Huawei’s role in the country’s 5G networks, first limiting the Chinese companies role in January and then banning them entirely in July. In a sense, this new Telecommunications Security Bill simply puts into law what the government were already moving to enforce.
For Huawei, this legislation is perhaps the final nail in the coffin for its UK business, despite the company continuing to reiterate its commitment to the country, including agreeing to build a private 5G testbed in Cambridge earlier this month. Earlier this month, with the victory of Joe Biden over Donald Trump in the US, Huawei argued that the US-driven political pressure on the UK would lower, allowing the UK to potentially reverse its decision to ban the Chinese vendor. With the announcement of this new security law, it seems those hopes have been dashed.
“It’s disappointing that the Government is looking to exclude Huawei from the 5G roll out,” said Huawei Vice President, Victor Zhang. “This decision is politically-motivated and not based on a fair evaluation of the risks. It does not serve anyone’s best interests as it would move Britain into the digital slow lane and put at risk the Government’s levelling up agenda.”
Security of telecoms networks is, of course, a major concern for any government and one that should not be taken lightly. But, on the other hand, interfering with the free market is a dangerous process, especially when the move seems to be as clearly politically motivated as this, given that the bill seems primarily to retroactively grant the government the legal powers it had already used against Huawei.
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