House Passes Bill to Protect Telecom Networks from Foreign Threats

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Companion legislation awaits a vote in the Senate.

The House Wednesday passed legislation geared toward preventing equipment and technology from certain Chinese Community Party-backed firms from gaining a foothold in U.S. telecommunications networks.

The Secure Equipment Act, introduced by Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Steve Scalise, R-La., would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from reviewing or issuing equipment licenses to companies on the agency’s “Covered Equipment or Services” list. Companies are placed on that list over national security concerns, and include Chinese firms Huawei, ZTE, Hytera, Hikvision and Dahua.

“I’ve fought for over a decade to address vulnerabilities in our telecommunications infrastructure that directly impact our national security. Equipment made by Huawei and ZTE, companies linked to the Chinese government, increase the vulnerabilities of our telecommunication systems and put the U.S. at risk,” Eshoo said in a statement.  

The legislation, which has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., and awaits a vote, would add another layer of protection in preventing companies that pose national security risks from gaining footholds in U.S. telecommunications networks. The FCC introduced proposed rulemaking over the summer that could go beyond what’s required in the Secure Equipment Act, allowing the agency to revoke previously issued authorizations to companies.   

“The Secure Equipment Act, H.R. 3919, will prevent China from infiltrating America’s telecommunications networks and threatening the safety and national security of the American people when sending data across the internet,” Scalise said in a statement. “By prohibiting the FCC from issuing any equipment licenses to companies identified as a threat to our national security, this bill prevents compromised Chinese equipment from threatening America’s networks.”