House bills aim to dilute Chinese dominance in US telecom

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House lawmakers are looking to stem China’s increasing dominance in the telecommunications sphere and consider various proposals at an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing.

The panel on Wednesday will consider nine tech and telecom bills with a broad goal of lessening American dependence on Chinese hardware and addressing national security concerns over wireless networks from foreign entities.

One piece of legislation would change cybersecurity policy within the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Another FCC-targeted bill, the “Communications Security Advisory Act of 2021,” would help create a council to improvements for the security and reliability of U.S. communications networks, including those used by telecom giants such as AT&T and Verizon.

Another two bills, the “TEAM TELECOM Act” and the “Secure Equipment Act of 2021,” would attempt to tackle national security concerns over FCC approval of communication products and applications from foreign companies. The pair of proposals aim to strengthen the interagency review process conducted by the NTIA, and the approval guidelines within the communications commission.

Meanwhile, the “Open RAN Outreach Act” would make the NTIA responsible for education and technical assistance for small communications providers that are particularly dependent on Chinese telecom giants, such as ZTE and Huawei, and often have greater difficulty changing their hardware suppliers.

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U.S. government officials have warned since 2018 that Huawei has ties to the Chinese government, banning Huawei equipment for federal government use because of security concerns. The company denies having ties to the Chinese government or being influenced by them.

With bipartisan support, the FCC voted in December 2020 to stop Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese telecommunications firm, from receiving U.S. telecommunications subsidies, calling both companies national security threats.

A fifth bill, the Secure Equipment Act of 2021co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Democratic Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, attempts to close the national security loophole that allows private or non-federal government entities to still purchase equipment from Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE.

Earlier this month, Huawei lost a court challenge to the FCC declaration that it is a national security threat due to its links to the Chinese Communist Party.

Huawei is also one of a number of Chinese companies added to the Commerce Department’s “entities list” for its role in the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance of its Uyghur Muslim population, restricting the company’s and its suppliers’ access to U.S. products and technology.

In December, the Commerce Department explained that Huawei was added to the entity list in May 2019 because the company and its affiliates “engaged in activities that are contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests.”

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The Trump administration engaged in an all-out effort to limit Huawei’s global reach, especially in the area of fifth-generation wireless, pushing its “Five Eyes” international partners to reject Huawei technology in their communications networks.

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