Bill to Replace Network Gear from Huawei and ZTE Passes Congress

The Senate passed HR4998 Friday with a voice vote. The bill, which passed the House in December, would give $1 billion in funding to help Internet Service Providers replace network gear from potential dangerous actors, including Chinese-manufactured Huawei and ZTE equipment. The effort is a response to security concerns about Chinese hardware.

The bill, entitled the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act, prohibits the Federal Communications Commission from using federal funds to purchase communications equipment or services from companies that pose a national security risk, requires the FCC to establish a reimbursement program to assist providers with 2 million or fewer customers to remove prohibited equipment, and helps the federal government share supply chain security information with carriers to keep prevent similar equipment in the future. The bill passed in the House in December and will next go to the President’s desk for his action.

A press release from Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), and Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) praised the passage of the bill. “In today’s interconnected world, America’s wireless future depends on having networks that are secure from malicious foreign interference. The existence of Huawei’s technology in our networks represents an immense threat to America’s national and economic security,” Pallone, Walden, Matsui, and Guthrie said. 

They said the bill will bolster effects in communities throughout America to keep the communications supply chain safe from malicious actors, while helping rural providers replace network equipment.  “We thank our colleagues in the Senate for getting this important, bipartisan measure across the finish line and look forward to the President signing it into law,” the members said.

The Rural Wireless Association, a trade group representing small internet service providers, said the passage of the bill is an “important first step in securing the communications network supply chain,” and that the passage came at a critical time. “Without this crucial funding, rural carriers would lack the financial means to effectuate rapid replacement of the banned equipment,” their statement said.