WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation on Wednesday to about $700 million in grants to help AMERICAN companies with the costs of the removal of Huawei’s equipment in their networks.
FILE PHOTO: Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) arrives for a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing of the assessment of the Intelligence Community Assessment on “Russian Activities and Intentions in the Recent AMERICAN Elections,” on Capitol Hill in Washington, USA, May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
The bill also moves to block the use of equipment or services of the Chinese telecom companies Huawei and ZTE in the next-generation 5G networks, according to a statement from the senators.
The United States has accused ZTE Corp. and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is working for the Chinese government and has expressed concern their equipment can be used to spy on the Americans, allegations of the Chinese government and the companies say are unwarranted.
“With so much at stake, our communication infrastructure must be protected against the dangers of foreign governments and companies such as Huawei,” Tom Cotton, a Republican senator co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Roger Wicker, the Democratic chairman of the senate Commerce Committee, are also backing the bill.
While large U.S. companies have broken ties with Huawei, small, rural carriers leaned on Huawei and ZTE switches and devices, because they are often less expensive.
The Rural Wireless Association, which represents carriers with less than 100,000 subscribers), estimates that 25 percent of the members have Huawei and ZTE in their networks, and have said that it would cost $800 million to $ 1 billion to replace it.
The movement goes further than the steps taken so far by the U.S. President Donald Trump of the administration, even as it has hardened his attitude towards Huawei.
Last August, Trump signed a bill blocking the U.S. government itself from using Huawei and ZTE equipment.
Then, last week, the U.S. Department of Commerce on the black list, Huawei and 70 affiliates, unless the business of the purchase of parts or components from US companies without US government approval.
Five days later, the U.S. government temporarily eased restrictions, allowing the Chinese company to buy American-made goods to maintain the existing networks, and software updates for existing Huawei headsets.
Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Lisa Shumaker