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Lawmakers Propose Funding for Replacing China-Linked Telecom Equipment

A legislation introduced in the House proposes providing billions of dollars to rural telecommunications companies to replace telecom equipment from Chinese Communist Party-linked tech giants over spying concerns. 

The bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the Defend Our Networks Act, which aims to allocate $3.08 billion in unobligated COVID-19 emergency funding to cover the costs of replacing equipment through the Federal Communications Commission’s “Rip and Replace Program.” 

The program seeks to fund the removal and replacement of communications equipment from Chinese telecom companies Huawei and ZTE, both identified by the federal government as posing a threat to national security due to their connections to the CCP. 

Established in 2020, the program has received 126 applications from rural telecom companies that it cannot afford to support. The proposed legislation would bridge the funding gap to address this issue. 

Rep. Ashley Hinson, an Iowa Republican, introduced the legislation alongside Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party Chair Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican, and committee ranking member Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat.

Mrs. Hinson emphasized the prevalence of Chinese tech in communications networks across the country, highlighting the potential for backdoor access to Americans’ personal information and sensitive data.

She stated, “If communication flows through Huawei or ZTE equipment, it should be treated as if it is being downloaded back to a server in Beijing with a full access pass for the CCP regime.”

Approximately 24,000 pieces of equipment from these companies are currently in use across the country’s rural communications networks. 

Last year, the Biden administration prohibited the purchase of new equipment from the companies, citing “an unacceptable risk” to national security. Additionally, the FCC has banned the use of agency funds to expand or maintain telecom networks with equipment from Huawei or ZTE, and has directed companies to remove equipment from these Chinese firms. 

Mr. Gallagher stressed the urgent need to eliminate thousands of pieces of risky Chinese telecommunications equipment from U.S. networks. 

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