Today, members of the U.S. Energy and Commerce Committee introduced legislation to authorize $1 billion for small telecom providers to rip and replace Huawei equipment in their networks.
House bill 4459 was introduced by a bipartisan group including Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR), Reps. Doris Matsui (D-CA), and Brett Guthrie (R-KY).
The bill specifically singles out Huawei and ZTE equipment. And it directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a reimbursement program funded with $1 billion to help smaller telcos replace equipment from those Chinese companies. The funds would remain available through fiscal year 2029.
The Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the bill this Friday. After that, it would have to go through a subcommittee markup and then a full committee markup, and then it would go to the House. A spokesperson for the Energy and Commerce Committee said the bill has a good chance of making it out of committee because its sponsors include the chair and ranking member of the committee.
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a similar bill in May, entitled “The United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019,” which would appropriate $700 million to help telecommunications providers remove Chinese equipment from their networks. That bill has not yet made its way out of committee.
Neither bill specifies where the money would come from. That would be left up to the Appropriations Committee.
The four Commerce Committee leaders said in a statement, “This bipartisan legislation will protect our nation’s communications networks from foreign adversaries by helping small and rural wireless providers root-out suspect network equipment and replace it with more secure equipment. We must get this done to protect our national security.”
The legislation follows the Department of Commerce’s action in May to place Huawei and 70 of its affiliates on an “entity list,” effectively banning the company from buying components from U.S. companies without government approval.
The entity list is still in effect. And although the Commerce Department has accepted applications from American companies that are requesting licenses to sell U.S. goods to Huawei, the department has not issued any licenses.