A bipartisan bill has been introduced that would create a $700 million fund to help telecoms remove Huawei equipment from their networks, push the FCC to finalize its proposal to ban telecoms using suspect tech from Universal Service Fund broadband subsidies, and making it U.S. policy not to use Huawei, ZTE or their affiliates in 5G networks.
The bill is at the intersection of the Trump Administration and Congress's push to win the race to 5G with the concern that Chinese telecoms are both key players in those new networks and security threats because of their connections to the Chinese government and its mandate that industry abet spying.
While there have been numerous efforts to prevent future nets from containing suspect Chinese tech, scrubbing it from current nets could be expensive, particularly from the smaller telecoms for whom the Chinese telecoms subsidized low prices were a cost-effective alternative. The fund would help address that concern.
The United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019 is co-sponsored by Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska).
Specifically, the bill:
1. "Establishes U.S. policy to promote the deployment of secure commercial 5G networks and the development of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector in the U.S.
2. "Establishes U.S. policy that American 5G networks should not include equipment or services provided by Huawei, ZTE, or their affiliates.
3. "Requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to finalize its rulemaking that would prohibit the use of Universal Service Fund subsidies to buy equipment or services from providers who pose a national security risk."
"4. "Establishes the Supply Chain Security Trust Fund grant program to help U.S. communications providers remove Huawei equipment from their networks — makes available up to $700 million from future spectrum auctions for this purpose."
5. "Requires a report on steps that the Federal government is taking to ensure the secure deployment and availability of 5G networks.
6. "Establishes an interagency program – led by the Department of Homeland Security – to share information regarding security, risks, and vulnerabilities with U.S. communications providers.
7. "Prioritizes funding to enhance U.S. representation at international 5G standards setting bodies, such as the International Telecommunications Union."
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
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