Rural carriers using Huawei equipment could access $700 million in federal funds
This week members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation amended and approved two companion pieces of legislation that speak to how the government can facilitate speedy deployment of 5G networks, as well as the security of those networks.
Out of the committee, the two bills now go back to the full Senate for a vote ahead of potentially being made law by the president.
The first item is the United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019, sponsored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS). This bill makes clear that the federal government should not build or operate 5G networks, but should support the private companies that are in the process of deploying.
Specifically, the bill tasks lawmakers with identifying “additional capacity in the low-bands, mid-bands, and high-bands of the electromagnetic spectrum for licensed and unlicensed use, emphasizing harmonization with global allocations.” It goes on to note that 5G networks in the U.S. “should not incorporate any hardware or software produced by, or any services offered by” Huawei and ZTE, both Chinese network infrastructure vendors that have been the subject of intense scrutiny from Washington.
Perhaps the most interesting portion of this bill considers federal subsidization of replacing Huawei equipment already installed in the U.S. Several rural and regional carriers use Huawei kit.
According to the bill, grant funding will come from the Supply Chain Security Trust Fund or borrowed interest-free from the U.S. Department of Treasury. Grants “may be used only to replace communications equipment and services obtained from [Huawei or ZTE} or another entity posing a national security risk.” The funding can only go for equipment purchased on or after Aug. 14, 2018 and is available to service providers with fewer than 6 million customers.
Senators also approved Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn’s Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2019. This bill requires the president “to develop a strategy to ensure the security of net generation mobile telecommunications systems and infrastructure in the United States and to assist allies and strategic partners in maximizing the security of next generation mobile telecommunications systems, infrastructure and software.”
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