House passes legislation banning government from buying Huawei equipment

House passes legislation banning government from buying Huawei equipment
© Greg Nash

The House on Monday passed legislation that would bar the government from buying telecommunications equipment from companies deemed to be national security threats, such as Chinese telecom giant Huawei. 

The bipartisan Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act, which passed the House unanimously, could get a vote in the Senate as soon as this week. 

"Securing our networks from malicious foreign interference is critical to America’s wireless future," the bipartisan lawmakers behind the bill, including the top Democrat and Republican on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement. "Companies like Huawei and its affiliates pose a significant threat to America’s commercial and security interests because a lot of communications providers rely heavily on their equipment."

ADVERTISEMENT

The legislation prohibits the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from doling out funds to purchase telecom equipment from "any company that poses a national security risk" while requiring the government to help small communications providers rip questionable equipment out of the ground. 

The bill requires the FCC to establish a $1 billion program to help small and rural communications providers remove "suspect network equipment" and replace it with products that are deemed more "secure." 

It's only the latest attempt to address threats posed by Huawei, a massive company with a U.S. presence that critics say could enable the Chinese government to infiltrate U.S. communications. 

The bill follows a White House executive order issued in May banning American companies from using any telecommunications equipment deemed to be a "national security risk," a move largely seen as an effort to kneecap Huawei. The Trump administration is currently involved in a complicated back-and-forth over whether the U.S. will ultimately remove all Huawei equipment from its networks and pare down all U.S. business with the Chinese company. 

The House on Monday also approved two other telecom bills that came from the Energy and Commerce Committee, both of which are aimed at ensuring the government is adequately tracking which Americans have access to the internet. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The bills would help improve the FCC's current broadband maps, which have been widely panned as inaccurate and unhelpful. Because the FCC uses the maps to determine where to devote billions of dollars in broadband investment, the issue has drawn intense scrutiny from people who say they are being overlooked — particularly in rural areas, where critics say the maps tend to be particularly inaccurate.

The Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act would require the government to collect granular information about which areas in the U.S. have access to high-speed internet and which do not, and the Mapping Accuracy Promotes Services Act would bar anyone from "willfully, knowingly, or recklessly" submitting broadband internet access service coverage information or data to the FCC if it's untrue. 

"Today, the House passed two important bills designed to fix our nation’s faulty broadband maps," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Rep. Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleBottom Line Hillicon Valley: Trump turns up heat on Apple over gunman's phone | Mnuchin says Huawei won't be 'chess piece' in trade talks | Dems seek briefing on Iranian cyber threats | Buttigieg loses cyber chief House Democrats request briefings on Iranian cyber threats from DHS, FCC MORE (D-Pa.) said in a statement. "Accurately mapping the availability of broadband internet service is essential to promoting the deployment of high-speed service to all Americans, especially those in unserved and underserved areas." 

The three bills all have companion versions set for a vote in the Senate. The Senate Commerce Committee and Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor Progressive group knocks McConnell for talking judicial picks during coronavirus Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill MORE's (R-Ky.) office did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment about when the Senate will vote on the bipartisan, bicameral legislation.