Chinese firms, including Huawei, barred from using national security loophole in new bill

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A new bipartisan bill in the Senate will require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to hold off on clearing business requests from companies on the commission’s national security threat list, including the Chinese company Huawei.

Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., introduced the Secure Equipment Act of 2021, a bill that aims to stop the FCC from reviewing and approving business applications from companies on the commission’s “Covered List.”

According to a press release issued Monday, the bill would also “prevent further integration and sales” of “Chinese state-backed or directed firms,” such as Huawei and ZTE, in America “regardless of whether federal funds are involved.”

Under current law, U.S. telecommunications carriers are only allowed to take down equipment purchased with federal funds, creating an exploitable loophole.

“Chinese state-directed companies like Huawei and ZTE pose a serious risk to our national security,” Rubio said in the release. “The Chinese Communist Party subsidizes these companies and exploits loopholes in our laws to allow malicious actors to sell compromised equipment and services in the U.S.

“The status quo is dangerous, and we need to act now to strengthen our national security and protect our critical infrastructure,” the Florida Republican added.

Markey said in the statement that the U.S. “must animate our technology with our values, especially in the 5G networks that are critical to our future economic prosperity.”

“That’s why our bipartisan legislation will make sure all of our devices and equipment are safe for consumers and secure for the United States,” Markey continued. “I’m proud to partner with Sen. Rubio on this commonsense proposal and I look forward to fighting together for its swift passage.”

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr applauded the two senators in the release for their “leadership and bold action.”

“Their legislation would strengthen our national security by ensuring that we close the loophole that Huawei and others are using right now despite our determination that their gear poses an unacceptable risk to our national security,” Carr said.

According to the release, the FCC adopted new rules in 2020 requiring U.S. telecommunications companies to take down and replace equipment from Huawei and other companies that are on the commission’s Covered List.

Huawei and ZTE were banned from building communications infrastructure in the U.S. with federal subsidies after the FCC declared the two companies “national security threats” last summer.

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