The bipartisan bill would also fund removing Chinese equipment from existing networks.
A bipartisan quintet of senators introduced legislation Thursday to establish a national policy for the secure deployment of commercial 5G networks and funding for U.S. communications providers’ removal of Chinese equipment from their networks.
The United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019 comes as tensions between America and Chinese telecommunications company Huawei continue to escalate, mostly due to concerns that the Chinese government can spy or harm its western adversaries via Huawei’s pervasive technology. It also comes a little over a week after President Trump issued an executive order banning the government from any purchase or use of communications or information technology that poses a national security risk.
The bill was introduced by Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Mark Warner, D-Va., Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska.
In a statement, Warner noted that the federal government “failed to effectively communicate national security risks” from communications equipment produced by Huawei and ZTE for many years and, in some cases, incentivized rural carriers to use Chinese equipment because it was the cheapest.
To address the existing threats, the legislation would create the Supply Chain Security Trust Fund grant program, which would provide “significant resources” to help rural and regional providers remove foreign equipment determined to threaten national security from their networks. It would make up to $700 million available from future spectrum auctions.
“This bill ensures that on a going-forward basis we don’t make the same mistakes in allowing companies subject to extra-judicial directions of a foreign adversary to infiltrate our nation’s communications networks,” Warner said.
The national policy would ban America’s communications networks from incorporating any hardware or software produced by or connected to two of China’s largest tech giants—Huawei and ZTE—as well as any other communications providers based in China that are not subsidiaries of companies headquartered elsewhere. It also would ban any entities that pose national security threats.
Further, the act would require a report on the government’s work to ensure secure 5G deployment and establish an interagency program to share insights around security and vulnerabilities with U.S. communications providers. The program would be headed by the Homeland Security Department.
“Future U.S. security and economic prosperity will depend on 5G technology,” Cotton said in a statement. “With so much at stake, our communications infrastructure must be protected from threats posed by foreign governments and companies like Huawei.”