The U.S. House and Senate have approved legislation that will create a $1 billion fund to help small carriers remove and replace network equipment from Huawei and ZTE.
The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act doesn’t specifically mention Huawei or ZTE. As Ars Technica reports, the legislation “says the FCC must produce a list of equipment providers ‘posing national security risks’ and prohibits ISPs and phone companies from using FCC funding to purchase, rent, lease, or maintain equipment and services made by those companies.”
In November, the FCC unanimously voted to block carriers from using money from the Universal Service Fund (USF) to purchase equipment from either Huawei or ZTE. As a result, while the new legislation doesn’t specifically mention the two carriers, by deferring to the FCC’s ruling it effectively targets them and provides a way for small carriers to replace their equipment without it being a financial burden.
The legislation is specifically targeted at telecom providers who have less than two million subscribers. The Rural Wireless Association (RWA) voiced its own support of the legislation, along with anticipation of President Trump signing it into law:
“The passage of this legislation comes at a critical time. Without this crucial funding, rural carriers would lack the financial means to effectuate rapid replacement of the banned equipment.
“RWA acknowledges the valiant effort made by Congress to ensure the continuous operation of rural networks while protecting national security. Now with a funding mechanism almost in place, rural carriers can begin planning for the removal of banned Chinese equipment from their networks. RWA now awaits President Trump’s signature for official enactment of the legislation and the appropriation of funds to ensure a path forward.”