Network Security Act Passes House

The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act (HR 4998) has passed the House by voice vote, according to the legislators who backed the bill. 

It must still pass the Senate and be signed by the President.  

Related: Commerce Releases Suspect Tech Vetting Framework 

Among other things, the bill would make at least $1 billion available for ripping and replacing suspect tech from existing networks. 

The bill "prohibits the use of federal funds to purchase communications equipment or services from any company that poses a national security risk to American communications networks." (Funds for federal contracts are already barred from being used on Huawei and other allegedly suspect tech.)

Related: Huawei-Scrubbing 5G Bill introduced 

The FCC has already voted to exclude suspect tech from its Universal Service Fund broadband subsidy program and sought input on how to reimburse the smaller carriers who tend to purchase suspect tech because of the cost of the subsidized products and whether it should extend the prohibition beyond the USF fund to other networks. 

Congress definitely wants the FCC to look beyond. The bill would require network providers to submit an annual report to the FCC on whether it had "purchased, rented, leased, or otherwise obtained" equipment from suspect tech providers.  

The bill specifically: 

1. "Prohibits the use of federal funds, administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to purchase communications equipment or services from any company that poses a national security risk to American communications networks;

2. "Requires the FCC to establish the Secure and Trusted Communications Reimbursement Program to assist small communications providers with the costs of removing prohibited equipment or services from their networks and replacing the prohibited equipment with more secure communications equipment or services; and

3. "Helps the Federal government better share supply chain security information with carriers, particularly smaller carriers, to help keep this equipment out of our networks in the future." 

“Securing our networks from malicious foreign interference is critical to America’s wireless future," said House Energy & Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.), and Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) in a joint statement. "Companies like Huawei and its affiliates pose a significant threat to America’s commercial and security interests because a lot of communications providers rely heavily on their equipment. This bipartisan legislation will protect our nation’s communications networks from foreign adversaries, and help small and rural providers remove and replace suspect network equipment. We look forward to swift action in the Senate so we can send this bill to the President’s desk and protect our national security,” the leaders said. 

The FCC had no comment at press time on how much the bill differed from what it had already established in the order voted out unanimously last month.

John Eggerton

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.