The House on Monday passed legislation banning the use of federal funds to buy equipment from prohibited telecommunications companies and establishing a reimbursement program to assist with removing barred equipment from supply chains. 

The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019 (H.R.4998), sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), was approved by voice vote and is intended to further preclude companies such as China’s

Huawei and ZTE from U.S. vendors’ future 5G telecommunications efforts. 

“The increasingly globalized supply chain for telecommunications equipment presents new security challenges for the United States. Since some smaller telecommunications providers have in recent years purchased less expensive equipment from Chinese companies, we face a new challenge of protecting our telecommunications system,” Pallone said in a statement. “The existence of this equipment in American networks is a threat to the critical infrastructure components that we use every day.  We simply cannot allow China, and other bad actors, to infiltrate our telecommunications systems, and that’s why we must help smaller carriers remove this suspect equipment from their networks.”

Within a year, the FCC would be required to develop a full list of banned telecommunications suppliers, beyond Huawei and ZTE, with input from the new Federal Acquisition Security Council and the Department of Commerce.

The bill specifically “[prohibits] certain federal loans, grants, and subsidies from being used to purchase communications equipment or services posing national security risks.” 

Pallone’s bill says companies that could be added to the list are those capable of illicitly redirecting user data traffic or causing the network of a provider to be disrupted remotely. 

The bill’s “Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program” would provide federal assistance to telecommunications service providers with 2 million or fewer customers to remove banned products and replacing the equipment with more secure tools.