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Triangle Communications addresses CNN report on Malmstrom security

Posted at 9:41 PM, Mar 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-25 23:50:41-04

GREAT FALLS – Earlier this month, CNN reported that equipment produced by a Chinese company could be a potential threat to Malmstrom Air Force Base’s missile complex.

Triangle Communications and Hill County Electric CEO Craig Gates said the equipment they use is not a threat to the missile complex throughout rural Montana.

“The questions that he asked were very specific to where he wanted the article to go,” Gates said.

Gates said that is why they decided to not give CNN a comment for their recent story on Triangle Communications.

Triangle Communications has used the Chinese company Huawei equipment since 2012.

“Huawei around Malmstrom Air Force Base is fixed wireless internet. What we are doing is we have it on towers we put up until we can get there and build fiber to our members’ homes and businesses,” Gates said.

The CNN report talks about Huawei being banned from bidding on United States government contracts, and about how federal employees are not allowed to use Huawei products. Huawei recently sued the United States government arguing the ban is unconstitutional.

“They got it right in their story that the Department of Defense say they see an issue with Huawei equipment,” Gates said.

Gates said the government has never informed Triangle Communications of any issues with Huawei equipment.

The CNN report brought up the possibility of Huawei equipment tracking airmen as they come and go from the missile field.

“It is not a mobile play. Nobody’s phone is being tracked on it. We have no idea what airmen are or are not doing around Malmstrom Air Force Base,” Gates said.

He added the Huawei equipment being used connects to antennas that can only be programed to 700 megahertz.

“The government does not even use 700 megahertz for its equipment. No matter what Huawei can do, on that particular location it would do nothing to anybody, other than possibly interfere with the members’ home internet,” Gates said.

Gates said the Huawei equipment will no longer be used as they lay more fiber lines in that area.

“It was just interesting that they wanted to express those issues when in fact there really is no concern for what he said in that article,” Gates said.

CNN also reported Triangle Communications is part of the Rural Wireless Association. Gates said they have not been a member in years.

The CNN report also stated smaller companies, like Triangle Communications, receive Universal Services funding for cellular operation. Gates said Triangle Communications has never received funding from the Universal Services Fund.

“I just want to put everyone’s mind at ease that Triangle would no way do anything like this,” Gates said.

Defense Spokesperson Michelle L. Baldanza gave MTN the following statement:

“The United States is focused on the security of communications networks and services, which play a critical role in the safety, security, and prosperity of our nations and are an attractive target for foreign adversaries and malicious cyber actors. One of our highest priorities is to ensure the United States and our partners and allies maintain secure and trustworthy networks to reduce the risk of unauthorized access and malicious cyber activity.”

Reporting by Margaret DeMarco for MTN News