Trump signs law banning use of federal funds to purchase Huawei equipment

Trump signs law banning use of federal funds to purchase Huawei equipment
© Getty

President TrumpDonald John TrumpOklahoma City Thunder players kneel during anthem despite threat from GOP state lawmaker Microsoft moving forward with talks to buy TikTok after conversation with Trump Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled MORE on Thursday signed into law a bill banning the use of federal funds to purchase equipment from telecom companies deemed a national security threat, such as Chinese telecom group Huawei.

The Secure and Trusted Communications Act, which the Senate passed in February and the House approved last year, will also require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a $1 billion fund to help small telecom groups remove existing equipment that is deemed to be a threat. 

“Securing our networks from malicious foreign interference is critical to America’s wireless future, especially as some communications providers rely on equipment from companies like Huawei that pose an immense threat to America’s national and economic security,” the bill's House sponsors, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), ranking member Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenPelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive Trade negotiations mustn't short-circuit domestic debate Hillicon Valley: Democrats request counterintelligence briefing | New pressure for election funding | Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers MORE (R-Ore.), and Reps. Doris MatsuiDoris Okada MatsuiDozens of Democrats plan to vote remotely in a first for the House Hillicon Valley: Experts raise security concerns about online voting | Musk finds supporter in Trump | Officials warn that Chinese hackers targeting COVID-19 research groups Democrats introduce legislation to ensure internet access for college students MORE (D-Calif.) and Brett GuthrieSteven (Brett) Brett GuthrieHillicon Valley: Tech giants poised to weather coronavirus damage | Record Facebook-FTC deal approved | Bipartisan 5G bill introduced Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost American 5G efforts Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter dismantle Russian interference campaign targeting African Americans | YouTube to allow ads on coronavirus videos | Trump signs law banning federal funds for Huawei equipment MORE (R-Ky.), said in a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: INOVIO R&D Chief Kate Broderick 'completely confident' world will develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine; GOP boxed in on virus negotiations Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers zero in on Twitter after massive hack | US, UK, Canada allege Russian hackers targeted COVID-19 vaccine researchers | Top EU court rules data transfer deal with the US is illegal Lawmakers zero in on Twitter following massive hack MORE (R-Miss.), whose committee has made 5G security a priority, praised Trump for signing the bill into law.

“This legislation lays the foundation to help U.S. firms strip out vulnerable equipment and replace it with secure alternatives,” Wicker said in a statement. “Today marks an important victory for our economy and national security."

The new law marks a major effort to eject Huawei and another Chinese company, ZTE, from U.S. networks. Both were previously designated national security threats by the FCC in November. The FCC also previously voted unanimously to ban the use of FCC funds by groups deemed to be threats.

A spokesperson for Huawei declined to respond to The Hill’s request for comment. The company has repeatedly pushed back against criticism, and is suing the FCC. 

Concerns around Huawei stem from a 2017 Chinese intelligence law that requires companies and citizens to assist in state intelligence work if requested, including sharing data and information. American prosecutors also recently charged Huawei with conspiracy to commit racketeering, which followed previous charges of stealing intellectual property, wire fraud and obstruction of justice.

ADVERTISEMENT

Huawei is the largest provider of 5G equipment in the world, with no American company currently able to compete. Its two biggest competitors are European groups Nokia and Ericsson. Lawmakers used a recent Senate hearing to explore use equipment from these companies.

The new law will likely have a major impact on rural networks. The Rural Wireless Association (RWA) estimated in 2018 that about 25 percent of its member networks use some equipment from Huawei or ZTE. 

RWA said in a statement following the Senate’s passage of the new law last month that the funds in the bill marked “an important first step in securing the communications network supply chain.” 

Other measures against Huawei have already been taken, including the addition of the group to the Commerce Department’s “entity list” last year, effectively blacklisting Huawei. On Thursday, bipartisan lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced a bill that would add the company to the Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals list and freeze Huawei out of the U.S. financial system.