The US Senate advanced legislation which would establish a $1 billion fund to help small operators foot the bill of replacing network kit from companies deemed to be security threats, sending the measure to President Donald Trump for final approval.
Terms of the act would also prohibit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from subsidising the purchase of equipment from such companies. The regulator would be responsible for overseeing the fund and determining which companies are a danger to national security.
Cash to replace kit would only be available to operators with less than 2 million subscribers.
While Huawei and ZTE were not specifically named in the bill, the FCC previously branded both companies as threats, while Senator Roger Wicker, who sponsored the measure, noted in a press release it is intended to protect against alleged dangers posed by both companies.
The House of Representatives approved the measure in December 2019.
If signed by the president, the legislation would effectively codify a policy previously adopted by the FCC blocking subsidy recipients from buying kit from Huawei and ZTE, and requiring replacement of existing gear.
Earlier this week, the FCC began taking an inventory of how much equipment from the Chinese vendors is currently in use in the country.
Steven Berry, president and CEO of regional operator group the Competitive Carriers Association, in a statement hailed the bill’s passage as “significant milestone,” which “provides much-needed guidance to all carriers, and importantly, resources to replace covered network elements”.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back