Saskatchewan premier defends Huawei deal
Premier Brad Wall says Saskatchewan has nothing to fear from a deal with Huawei, the Chinese technology company at the centre of a security controversy.
In September, Wall was in China as SaskTel signed an agreement with Huawei to test high-speed wireless internet and phone service in rural Saskatchewan.
Earlier this week, a United States senate committee issued a blistering report suggesting Huawei was a security risk and may be collecting information from the equipment it installs.
On Wednesday, Wall said if one looks at the specifics of the Huawei-SaskTel deal, there's no reason to be worried.
"We're going to move forward with it," he said. "Rural coverage is simply too important."
SaskTel and Huawei are working on a "fixed wireless" trial in rural Saskatchewan to see if it can replace another internet service that's being phased out.
There will also be new telephone equipment installed to see how that works compared to SaskTel's existing copper-wire-based landline service.
The plan is to conduct the trial in at least three rural communities starting in December.
Wall said the kind of equipment being used — new antennas — is not the kind that would present a security risk.
"Not routers, not the kinds of things that would access information," he said.
Wall said when he was on his way to Beijing, he received a briefing about Huawei and some of the concerns being investigated by the U.S. Senate committee.
"This agreement we've signed with Huawei ... is something about which we're very comfortable," he said.
Wall said it might be a different situation if the contract covered internal government communications. However, it doesn't, he said.
Wall's comments echoed those of SaskTel president Ron Styles on Tuesday.
"Huawei was allowed to come into Canada, was allowed to sell their product, bid on a contract for equipment with ourselves, Bell and Telus," Styles said.
"They were the low bidder, they've been a great partner for us over time and have complied with all our requirements."