On Thursday, October 28, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill to prevent companies deemed a threat to national security from receiving new equipment licenses from U.S. regulators.

The so-called Secure Equipment Act of 2021 establishes a ban on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from reviewing and issuing new equipment licenses to companies on its “Secure Network Act Reached Services or Equipment List,” which are supposed to pose a threat to national security.

Last week, the legislation was passed in the House of Representatives almost unanimously with 420 votes in favor and only four against. After also passing the Senate, it only remains for President Joe Biden to sign it into law for implementation.

Republican Representative Steve Scalise, who initially pushed for the legislation along with Democrat Anna G. Eshoo, celebrated the bill’s passage by issuing an official statement saying:

“Our bipartisan legislation will prevent China from infiltrating America’sAmerica’s telecommunications networks and compromising our national security.”

Democrat Representative Eshoo also referred to the legislation and pointed directly against the companies Huawei and ZTE, both linked to the Chinese Communist Party and its intelligence apparatus, which have been the target of a large number of complaints for not complying with their data confidentiality commitments and for their participation in espionage tasks.

“Equipment made by Huawei and ZTE, companies linked to the Chinese government, increases the vulnerabilities of our telecommunication systems and puts our national security at risk,” Eshoo said.

In March, the FCC had already designated five Chinese companies deemed a threat to national security on its list under a law created during the Trump era in 2019 aimed at protecting U.S. communications networks.

The affected companies included Huawei and ZTE, which were already in the eye of the storm due to complaints both in the United States and in other countries indicating their misbehavior. Also added to the list were Hytera Communications Corp, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co, and Zhejiang Dahua Technology Co.

When in June the FCC declared itself in favor of prohibiting the approval of new equipment in telecommunication networks to these Chinese companies, several representatives of the communist regime expressed their opposition to the U.S. initiative, further straining bilateral relations between both countries.

“The United States, without any evidence, continues to abuse national security and state power to crack down on Chinese companies,” Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said in June, according to Reuters.

Representatives of Huawei, who have repeatedly denied ties to the Chinese regime, called the FCC’sFCC’s move in June “wrong and unnecessarily punitive.”

Already since 2020, companies singled out by the FCC could not purchase new equipment as long as it was federally funded, which opened up a loophole since they could buy it if the funds were private or state-funded. 

With the new legislation recently approved, the loophole would have been closed, and these companies will not be able to incorporate equipment, regardless of where the funds come from.

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