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Lawmakers Propose Funding for Replacing China-Linked Telecom Equipment

A House bill proposes allocating billions for rural telecommunications companies to replace telecom equipment from Chinese Communist Party-linked tech giants due to spying concerns.

The bipartisan Defend Our Networks Act would provide $3.08 billion in unobligated COVID-19 emergency funding to support applications to the FCC’s “Rip and Replace Program,” aimed at replacing communications equipment from Chinese telecom companies Huawei and ZTE, which are considered a threat to national security.

The program, established in 2020, has received 126 applications from rural telecom companies that require additional funding. The proposed legislation aims to address this funding shortfall.

Representative Ashley Hinson, Iowa Republican, introduced the legislation along with Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party Chair Mike Gallagher, Wisconsin Republican, and committee ranking member Raja Krishnamoorthi, Illinois Democrat.

Hinson highlighted the prevalence of Chinese tech in communications networks throughout the country, raising concerns about backdoor access to Americans’ personal information and sensitive data.

The presence of roughly 24,000 pieces of equipment from these companies in the country’s rural communications networks has prompted the Biden administration to ban the purchase of new equipment from these companies, citing “an unacceptable risk” to national security. The FCC has also prohibited the use of agency funds for maintaining or expanding telecom networks with equipment from Huawei or ZTE. It has ordered companies to remove equipment from the Chinese firms.

“There are thousands of pieces of risky Chinese telecommunications equipment in U.S. networks and it’s imperative we act with a sense of urgency to remove them,” Mr. Gallagher emphasized.

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