Bipartisan, bicameral legislation will block technology manufactured by companies that pose a threat to national security
Washington (August 4, 2021) – Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) today applauded the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee’s markup of their bipartisan legislation, the Secure Equipment Act of 2021. This bill directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt rules clarifying that it will no longer review or issue new equipment licenses to companies – such as the People’s Republic of China state-backed firms Huawei and ZTE – on the agency’s “Covered Equipment or Services List” that pose a national security threat. The FCC is required to maintain this list under the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019, which laid out detailed criteria for determining what communications equipment or services pose an unacceptable risk to U.S. safety.
In 2020, the FCC adopted new rules to require that U.S. telecommunications carriers rip and replace equipment provided by “covered” companies. While that was an important step, 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. Senators Markey and Rubio introduced the Secure Equipment Act to close this loophole and further prevent identified security threats from having a presence in U.S. telecommunications networks. Subsequently, the FCC initiated a rulemaking that mirrors the lawmakers’ proposal. Today’s legislation builds on the FCC’s ongoing proceeding and ensures that the agency takes timely action on this issue.
“In today’s increasingly connected world, we must animate our technology with our values,” said Senator Markey. “That’s why our bipartisan legislation will keep compromised equipment out of U.S. telecommunications networks and ensure our technology is safe for consumers and secure for the United States. I’m proud to partner with Senator Rubio on this proposal and I thank the Commerce Committee for advancing our bill. I look forward to now fighting for its swift passage by the full Senate.”
“The Chinese Communist Party will stop at nothing to exploit our laws and undermine our national security,” said Senator Rubio. “Chinese state-directed companies, like Huawei and ZTE, have no place in our telecommunications network. This bill would keep compromised equipment from bad actors out of critical U.S. infrastructure. I am pleased that the Commerce Committee advanced this bill, and I look forward to its ultimate passage on the Senate floor.”
Representative Anna Eshoo (CA-18) and Representative Steve Scalise (LA-01) have also introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives, which was recently advanced by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
“The Secure Equipment Act of 2021 will help keep our country safe by ensuring that untrustworthy communications equipment is not authorized for use within our borders. These latest efforts align with my efforts to update the Federal Communications Commission’s equipment authorization procedures,” said Jessica Rosenworcel, FCC Acting Chairwoman. “I thank Senators Markey and Rubio for their dedication to this issue–having this policy written into the law will send a strong, bipartisan signal that the United States is serious about developing a robust market for secure 5G alternatives.”
“I applaud Senator Rubio and Senator Markey for their leadership and work to secure America’s communications networks,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said. “Their legislation would help ensure that insecure gear from companies like Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese state-backed entities can no longer be inserted into America’s communications infrastructure. This gear poses an unacceptable risk to our national security, and their bipartisan legislation would ensure that the FCC closes the loophole being used today by Huawei and others on the Covered List to be a part of our networks. I am very pleased that this legislation has advanced out of Committee and look forward to its consideration by the full Senate.”