The US Senate has voted unanimously to pass the ‘Secure and Trusted Telecommunications Networks Act’, which was created as a response to concerns over the security of equipment supplied by Chinese telecoms vendors Huawei and ZTE. The bill – H.R.4998, which was passed by the House in December 2019 – seeks to ban the purchase of telecoms equipment from the two Chinese firms. In addition, the bill includes USD1 billion in funding to help smaller rural telecoms operators to ‘rip and replace’ existing equipment from specific manufacturers. Going forward, the bill now needs to be signed off by President Donald Trump in order to become law.
In a parallel development, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has initiated a ‘Supply Chain Information Collection Reporting Portal’ to allow domestic operators to submit an inventory of the Huawei and ZTE equipment in their networks. This follows the FCC’s adoption of a rule barring the use of Universal Service funds to purchase equipment and services from companies posing a ‘national security threat’. FCC chairman Ajit Pai commented: ‘Huawei and ZTE have been initially designated as threats to national security. Given that those designations may become final this spring, we are moving forward quickly to identify where equipment and services from these suppliers are embedded in our communications networks and, where they do have a foothold, to be in a position to help remove them.’ Data must be submitted on or before 22 April.