A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has introduced legislation that would provide up to $700 million in funding for carriers who may need to replace Huawei gear in their network. The issue has taken on increasing importance thanks to an executive order by President Trump that in effect would ban Huawei gear in U.S. networks.
The bill, formally known as ‘United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019,’ was introduced by Senators Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). In addition to the funding to replace Huawei gear, or gear from other suppliers who pose a national security risk, the legislation codifies the ban on gear from these companies for use in U.S. networks.
It specifically calls out a ban on purchasing equipment from these firms using funds from the universal service fund, which includes the broadband-focused Connect America Fund.
Per the gear replacement funding, the legislation reads that the allocated funds “[m]ay be used only to replace communications equipment and services obtained from a covered company or another entity posing a national security risk, under such terms and conditions as the [Federal Communications] Commission shall establish.” Furthermore, the bill states that the funds can’t be used to replace equipment purchased on or after August 14, 2018.
Most of the Huawei gear being used in U.S. networks was purchased by smaller rural carriers – wireline and wireless alike. It’s used for a variety of purposes, including fixed wireless access, 4G, and FTTP.
The legislation targets these smaller carriers, making carriers with a subscriber base of above 6 million ineligible for the funding. The funding would come from a newly established Supply Chain Security Trust Fund. It’s not entirely clear where the $700 million funding is coming from.