US may soften ban on Huawei to help existing users

It might not have much choice if it wants to support rural carriers.

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Andrea Verdelli/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Andrea Verdelli/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Trump administration might ease its Huawei trade ban... if ever so slightly. A Commerce Department spokeswoman told Reuters in a statement that it might soon grant Huawei a temporary license to "prevent the interruption" of service for existing networks and gear. Numerous internet providers and wireless carriers in rural and other low-population areas (including eastern Oregon and Wyoming) still have Huawei equipment, and the Commerce Department's trade ban would leave them hanging in the event of a system failure.

Huawei would still face severe restrictions. It could buy US goods for maintenance, it couldn't use those goods to create new products.

A softened ban wouldn't likely ease tensions between China and the US. Huawei has insisted that the de facto ban will create "significant economic harm" for Americans, and China has interpreted it as an escalation of an ongoing trade war. This just shows that the US can't distance itself from Chinese telecom tech as easily as it might like.

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