FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said he applauded the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s passage of the Secure Equipment Act of 2021, which took place yesterday. He said the bipartisan legislation would strengthen national security and close what Carr called the Huawei loophole.
The committee marked up and reported to the House the legislation introduced by Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). The bill would require the FCC to update its equipment authorization process to protect against threats posed by entities on the Covered List, according to a statement from the commissioner. In March, Carr called on the FCC to take this step, and the Commission launched a proceeding to seek comment on the idea in June.
“I applaud Republican Whip Steve Scalise and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo for their leadership and work to secure America’s communications networks,” Carr said. “Their legislation would help ensure that insecure gear from companies like Huawei, ZTE and others can no longer be inserted into America’s communications infrastructure. We have already determined that his gear poses an unacceptable risk to our national security, and their bipartisan legislation would ensure that the FCC closes this Huawei loophole. I am very pleased that this legislation has advanced out of committee and look forward to its consideration by the full House.”
In 2020, the FCC adopted rules to require U.S. telecommunications carriers to rip and replace equipment provided by Huawei, ZTE, and other covered companies that pose a risk to U.S. national security, according to a statement from the office of Sen. Marco Rubio, (R-Fla.). Rubio and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) introduced similar legislation in the U.S. Senate. “While that was an important step,” the statement reads, referring to the 2020 FCC action, “those rules only apply to equipment purchased with federal funding. The very same equipment can still be used if purchased with private or non-federal government dollars. The Secure Equipment Act closes this national security loophole.”
Scalise said, “This bipartisan legislation that I introduced with Rep. Eshoo strengthens our national security and sends a strong signal to the Chinese Communist Party that America is committed to securing our networks and protecting the privacy and safety of our citizens.”
Eshoo said that she has fought for more than a decade to address vulnerabilities in U.S. telecommunications infrastructure that directly affect national security. “Equipment made by Huawei and ZTE, companies linked to the Chinese government, increase the vulnerabilities of our telecommunication systems and put the United States at risk,” she said. “The Energy and Commerce Committee took an important step by advancing my bipartisan legislation that directs the FCC to prohibit U.S. telecommunications companies from using equipment manufactured by companies that pose a national security threat.”
Matt Mandel, vice president of government and public affairs at the Wireless Infrastructure Association, said that the bills would go a long way to ensure that America’s broadband networks remain secure and protected. “New cyber threats are relentless,” he said. “The federal government and industry must continue to work together to safeguard consumers and the networks we all rely upon. WIA looks forward to working with the Committee as these bills move to full House consideration.”
Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.