News Technology

U.S. lawmakers urge Biden to curb open-source chip technology over China fears

What is RISC-V and why is it controversial?

RISC-V is an open-source chip technology that competes with the proprietary chip technology from British firm Arm Holdings. It stands for “Reduced Instruction Set Computing-5” and it can be used as an ingredient to create chips for smartphones, AI processors, and other devices. Unlike Arm, which charges licensing fees for its technology, RISC-V is freely available for anyone to use and modify.

This has attracted the interest of many U.S. and Chinese companies, as well as European firms that want to reduce their dependence on foreign chip suppliers. However, some U.S. lawmakers are concerned that China could use RISC-V to bypass U.S. technological dominance and catch up in the semiconductor race. They are calling on the Biden administration to impose export control restrictions on RISC-V, citing national security reasons.

How would the restrictions affect the global tech industry?

The possible regulation of RISC-V has sparked a debate within the tech community, as it could hinder cooperative work on open tech standards between the U.S. and China, potentially impacting China’s ambition to achieve chip independence and slowing the global momentum for more affordable and advanced chips.

U.S. lawmakers urge Biden to curb open-source chip technology over China fears

Some experts warn that such actions could stymie technological innovation on a global scale, as RISC-V has the potential to bring down the cost of everything related to technology. They argue that RISC-V is no different than other open technology standards like Ethernet, which helps computers on the internet talk with each other. Restricting access to RISC-V would curtail global collaboration on chip innovation and lead to a world of incompatible solutions that duplicate effort and close off markets.

Others contend that the U.S. has a legitimate interest in protecting its intellectual property and national security from China’s aggressive behavior in the tech sector. They point out that China has been using RISC-V to develop its own chips for military and civilian purposes, while also violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and North Korea by supplying them with RISC-V-based products. They urge the U.S. to take action before it loses its edge in the chip industry.

What are the reactions from RISC-V stakeholders?

The chief executive of RISC-V International, Calista Redmond, said on Monday that possible government restrictions on the open-source technology will slow down the development of new and better chips, holding back the global technology industry. RISC-V International is a nonprofit foundation that coordinates work among companies on the technology.

Redmond wrote in a blog post that RISC-V has drawn contributions in equal measure from North America, Europe, and Asia. The standards published by the foundation are not a full blueprint for a chip and do not give any party more information about how to make a chip than what is available from proprietary chip technology firms such as Arm.

“The only difference is that the marketplace is allowed to use these standards without proprietary licenses from a controlling company,” Redmond wrote. “Having access to open standards allows companies to innovate faster and spend their time creating differentiated products, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Major U.S. firms such as Google and Qualcomm have embraced RISC-V, as well as Chinese firms such as Huawei Technologies Co, which has been blacklisted by the U.S. government over national security concerns. Google plans to make its Android system compatible with RISC-V, and Qualcomm is collaborating with European firms on RISC-V chips.

Chinese officials have not commented publicly on the issue, but they have been promoting RISC-V as part of their efforts to reduce their reliance on foreign chip technology amid U.S. sanctions. China has also invested heavily in developing its own chip industry, which is still lagging behind global leaders such as Intel Corp and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *