Biden signs into law bill to secure telecommunications systems against foreign threats

President Biden on Thursday signed into law bipartisan legislation to secure telecommunications systems against potential foreign threats, particularly from those linked to China. 

The Secure Equipment Act will ban the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from considering or issuing authorization for products from companies on the FCC’s “covered list,” which includes Chinese telecommunications groups Huawei and ZTE. 

Last year, the FCC unanimously voted to formally classify both Huawei and ZTE as national security threats, with the agency citing their ties to the Chinese Communist Party and espionage concerns. The national security threat designation blocks U.S. telecommunications companies from using FCC funds to purchase products from these companies. 

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The bill had almost unanimous support on Capitol Hill, having been passed by the Senate by voice vote last month, and by the House the week prior by a vote of 420-4. 

In announcing the bill’s signing, the White House thanked the sponsors, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense & National Security — Quick vote on defense bill blocked again Maternal and child health legislation must be prioritized now The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks up bright side beneath omicron's cloud MORE (R-Fla.) and Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeySenators seek to curb counterfeit toys and goods sold online Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Equilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Pledged money not going to Indigenous causes MORE (D-Mass.), along with the House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHouse sets up Senate shutdown showdown GOP beginning to jockey for post-election leadership slots The Memo: Omicron poses huge threat to Biden presidency MORE (R-La.) and Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHillicon Valley — Chinese disinformation accounts removed House passes bipartisan bills to strengthen network security, cyber literacy Democrats to target Section 230 in Haugen hearing MORE (D-Calif.).

The four lawmakers celebrated the bill’s passage following the Senate vote last month. 

Rubio said in a statement that “Chinese state-directed companies like Huawei and ZTE are known national security threats and have no place in our telecommunications network,” while Markey in a separate statement stressed the need to “animate our technology with our values.” 

Scalise at the time 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.”

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Both Huawei and ZTE have been targets of pushback by bipartisan members of Congress and the Trump administration, also due to national security threats that the companies have denied. 

Huawei, one of the largest global providers of 5G equipment, recently reported a major drop in sales due to measures taken to block the company from doing business in the United States, which have also included the Commerce Department adding both Huawei and ZTE to its “entity list,” effectively blacklisting the groups. 

Former President TrumpDonald TrumpBaldwin calls Trump criticism following 'Rust' shooting 'surreal' Haley hits the stump in South Carolina Mary Trump files to dismiss Trump's lawsuit over NYT tax story MORE last year signed into law a measure that banned the use of federal funds to purchase Huawei equipment, and established a $1 billion fund to help the FCC assist smaller telecom companies with ripping out and replacing existing equipment deemed to be a threat.