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Bipartisan Senate bill would ban Huawei and ZTE from US 5G networks

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill on May 22 that would ban hardware or software provided by Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., ZTE Corp. or any company subject to "extrajudicial direction" by a foreign government from use in domestic 5G networks, among other provisions.

The bill, known as the United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019, was introduced by a group of five senators, including Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss, who serves as chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the top Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Although the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is already considering a rule that would prevent telecommunications providers from using the agency's Universal Service Fund to buy equipment or services from a communications equipment or service provider identified as posing a national security risk, the bill would direct the FCC to finalize its rulemaking within 90 days of the legislation's enactment into law. It would also establish a supply chain security trust fund capped at $700 million to help companies replace existing communications equipment from Huawei, ZTE or any other company that would be subjected to the law.

Some rural telecom providers are using Chinese equipment as a way to cut costs as they build out next-generation wireless networks. The Rural Wireless Association, a trade group, told the FCC at the end of last year that at least 25% of its members rely on equipment that could be perceived to pose a national security threat to communications networks or the communications supply chain.

According to a May 22 news release from the Senate Commerce Committee, funding for the supply chain security trust fund would come from future spectrum auctions.

The legislative proposal comes on the heels of a series of U.S. government actions intended to prevent future use of telecommunications equipment from certain international sources. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on May 15 that declared a national emergency to prevent the acquisition of information and communications equipment from countries posing a national security threat. On the same day, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced it was placing Huawei and its affiliates on its "entity list," which bans the sale or transfer of U.S. technology to anyone on the list without government approval.