A Senate committee on Wednesday passed bipartisan legislation aimed at providing federal funding to U.S. telecommunications providers and educational institutions to remove equipment from untrusted foreign suppliers.
The Ensuring Network Security Act (S. 4472), introduced by Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), follows the signing into law earlier this year of the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act, which prohibits telecommunications companies from deploying equipment from untrusted suppliers. That law is squarely aimed at Chinese suppliers of telecommunications equipment, particularly in the area of 5G, given their lack of independence from China’s ruling communist party.
The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act also created a program to reimburse American telecommunications providers serving under two million customers for the removal of untrusted equipment.
The new bill, approved by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, covers telecommunications providers that service up to 10 million customers.
“The legislation clearly recognizes the importance of addressing national security threats and providing sufficient funding to ensure that those most in need, specifically smaller carriers and providers serving high cost areas, are able to replace covered network elements,” Steven Berry, president and CEO of the Competitive Carriers Association, said in a statement. “This reimbursement program is an absolutely essential component to ensuring carriers can continue to provide critical mobile broadband services to their customers, and I thank the committee for its focus on this important legislation.”
Johnson, who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement that Congress needs to stay focused on vulnerabilities related to 5G technology. He urged the Senate leadership to quickly bring the bill up for a vote.