Senate approves bill to protect telecommunications infrastructure from foreign threats

Senate approves bill to protect telecommunications infrastructure from foreign threats
© Greg Nash

The Senate on Thursday unanimously passed legislation to take steps to further crack down on the use of telecommunications products from companies deemed to be a national security threat, such as those based in China.

The Secure Equipment Act would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from considering or issuing authorization of products from companies on the agency’s “covered list.” 

Companies on this list include Chinese telecom giants Huawei and ZTE, which both Congress and the Trump administration took steps to block from the U.S. due to national security and espionage concerns. The FCC last year formally designated both Huawei and ZTE as national security threats. 

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The bill was approved by the House last week by a vote of 420-4, and now heads to President BidenJoe BidenDeputy AG: DOJ investigating fake Trump electors On The Money — Vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses nixed Warner tests positive for breakthrough COVID-19 case MORE’s desk for signature. 

The legislation was sponsored in the upper chamber by Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioPut partisan politics aside — The Child Tax Credit must be renewed immediately These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine MORE (R-Fla.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyBiden comments add momentum to spending bill's climate measures  Overnight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Overnight Health Care — White House boosts mask availability MORE (D-Mass.). In the House the bill was sponsored by House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseSarah Palin's defamation case against New York Times heads to trial Supreme Court handcuffs Biden on vaccinations House GOP campaign arm rakes in 0M in 2021 MORE (R-La.) and Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHillicon Valley — Biden's misinformation warning Lawmakers call on tech firms to take threat of suicide site seriously, limit its visibility Eshoo: More federal incentives needed for 'orphan' drug makers MORE (D-Calif.).

All four lawmakers celebrated the passage of the Secure Equipment Act on Thursday, emphasizing threats posed by Chinese telecommunications companies. 

“Chinese state-directed companies like Huawei and ZTE are known national security threats and have no place in our telecommunications network,” Rubio said in a statement. “I am grateful that the Senate and House passed this bill, which will help keep compromised equipment from bad actors out of critical American infrastructure. Now, President Biden must swiftly sign it into law so that the Chinese Communist Party can no longer exploit this dangerous loophole.” 

Markey stressed the need to “animate our technology with our values.”

“Our bipartisan legislation will keep compromised equipment out of U.S. telecommunications networks and ensure our technology is safe for consumers and secure for the United States,” Markey said in a separate statement.

“I’m proud to have helped lead this effort and I thank my colleagues in both chambers of Congress for passing our bill. I stand ready to now work with the Biden administration and the FCC to implement this critical national security measure.”

Scalise said the bill “forcefully signals to the Chinese Communist Party that America is committed to protecting the privacy and security of our citizens,” while Eshoo said separately that she was “eager to see this bill signed into law by the President soon.”