Senators Offer Bill to Help Carriers Remove Chinese Network Gear

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Just before lawmakers left Capitol Hill for the holiday, a group of Senate Democrats joined Republicans in introducing a measure that would allocate as much as $700 million to wireless carriers with existing gear from Chinese vendors to help them replace the equipment. The legislation would require 5G wireless networks be free of equipment or services provided by Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE.

“5G networks need to be robust and secure, and not rely on equipment or services that pose a national security risk,” Wicker said. “This legislation would ensure continued American leadership in advanced wireless technology deployment. It offers relief to those providers that need to replace foreign equipment within their networks while augmenting the availability of secure 5G networks for all Americans.”

The measure would require the establishment of an “interagency program,” led by the Department of Homeland Security, to share information with communications companies on risks and vulnerabilities of networks.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS), Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), introduced the bill with Sens. Ed Markey (D-MA) and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) as co-sponsors.

Warner cited national security threats from Huawei and ZTE in highlighting the importance of the bill. “For a number of years, the federal government failed to effectively communicate the economic and national security risks of Huawei and ZTE communications equipment – and even adopted broadband grant policies that incentivized rural carriers to use this equipment because it was the cheapest around.” While The U.S. has made enormous progress in educating the private sector of the dangers these vendors pose, it hasn’t put in place policies to help resource-strapped rural carriers address and eliminate those risks, added Warner.

Warner continued: “This bill ensures that on a going-forward basis we don’t make the same mistakes in allowing companies subject to extra-judicial directions of a foreign adversary to infiltrate our nation’s communications networks. And it provides significant resources to ensure that rural and regional providers can prioritize investments that eliminate this equipment from their existing networks where it poses a security threat.”

May 24, 2019

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