US to endorse $1.9bn to replace Huawei, ZTE telecom equipment

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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The US lawmakers are expected to endorse $1.9 billion for funding an initiative to remove telecom network equipment that the US government claims to cause national security risks as part of a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill, as per sources.

According to reports, the lawmakers will also keep a $3.2 billion fund for an emergency broadband benefit for low-income Americans.

The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement, COVID-19 relief bill invests $7 billion to increase access to broadband targeting to support millions of students, families and unemployed workers to afford the broadband they require during the pandemic.

In June, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had formally declared China’s Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corp as threats and banned the US firms from tapping an $8.3 billion government fund to purchase equipment from the companies.

Earlier this month, the FCC finalized regulations that require carriers with ZTE or Huawei equipment to replace with other equipment but is awaiting funding from Congress.

While Huawei commented on the new regulations as disappointing as it forcefully removed their products from telecommunications networks. “This overreach puts US citizens at risk in the largely underserved rural areas during a pandemic when reliable communication is essential,” the Chinese telecom company stated.

“The bill establishes a temporary, emergency broadband benefit program at the FCC to help low-income Americans, including those economically challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic, get connected or remain connected to broadband,” as per a fact sheet.

According to sources related to the matter, the program also intends to offer a $50 monthly subsidy for qualifying households to support them to afford broadband service and an internet-connected device.

The COVID-19 Relief Broadband Package also includes the eligibility for the rip and replace reimbursement program to communications providers with 10 million subscribers or less, while the priority is given to providers with 2 million subscribers or less, the source said.

The bill also includes several other support packages for telehealth, to ensure broadband for tribal, undeserved Americans and minorities, which fully funds the FCC’s development of new more accurate broadband availability maps to help the agency better target government funding for broadband deployment.