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Vermont Bans Chinese, Russian Technology From State IT Systems

In a unanimous decision, the Public Utility Commission found that Vermont can regulate Voice over Internet Protocol service under federal law.
Ingram Publishing
Fiber optic cables like this carry data around the state. Vermont has banned certain Chinese and Russian hardware and software from the state's information technology systems.

The state of Vermont is following the lead of the U.S. government and has banned information technology products from a Russian company and several Chinese manufacturers.

The bans are aimed at equipment, such as internet routers, made by Huawei Technologies Company and four other Chinese firms.

The federal government and now Vermont have also banned the use of security software made by Kaspersky Labs, a firm based in Russia.

Secretary of Digital Services John Quinn said he did not know how widespread the Chinese or Russian technology is within Vermont.

“We don't expect that it's prevalent in the state of Vermont environment. But that's part of our comprehensive risk management approach,” he said. “We hope to have better numbers on both agency and vendor partners once we receive the required reporting back from them at the end of 30 days.”

The state has also ordered its roughly 360 IT vendors to review their services and eliminate the products as well.

"There's going to be a lot of work but we feel this is the right step based on the information that we have. We can't be soft on cybersecurity." - John Quinn, secretary of digital services

“It's a big number and there's going to be a lot of work but we feel this is the right step based on the information that we have. We can't be soft on cybersecurity,” he said.  

The state's directive follows the federal government's ban on products made by Huawei and the other companies because of national security concerns.

Meanwhile, the Huawei issue has also surfaced in a dispute before Vermont utility regulators. FirstLight, a telecommunications company in Albany, N.Y., had asked the state Public Utility Commission to intervene in a dispute with Vermont Telephone Company, based in Springfield.

Normally, the agreements are pretty standard, and would allow customers to keep their phone number if they go to the other company.

But in this case, VTel said it did not want to fully link its network with FirstLight’s because FirstLight’s network is “embedded” with Huawei equipment.

"What we’re concerned about here is an unprecedented cybersecurity challenge,” VTel lawyer Anthony Iarrapino told the PUC during a hearing last month.

But late last week, FirstLight withdrew its petition before the PUC. The notice did not say why it was withdrawing. The company’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.

John worked for VPR in 2001-2021 as reporter and News Director. Previously, John was a staff writer for the Sunday Times Argus and the Sunday Rutland Herald, responsible for breaking stories and in-depth features on local issues. He has also served as Communications Director for the Vermont Health Care Authority and Bureau Chief for UPI in Montpelier.
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