(USNewsMag.com) – On Nov. 5, a bipartisan House coalition introduced the Defend Our Networks Act, which would redirect relief funds from the pandemic toward a program that helps small communications providers replace equipment made by companies that are affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Introduced by Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson, Select Committee on the CCP Chairman, and Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher, as well as his counterpart, ranking member and Democratic Illinois Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the bill would allow the $3.08 billion of obligated emergency COVID-relief funds to be transferred to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) program “Rip and Replace,” which is facing a budget shortfall. The bill was co-authored by Democratic Pennsylvania Rep. Chrissy Houlahan.
The bipartisan program “Rip and Replace” was passed by Congress in 2020. The program reimburses smaller telecom companies for the removal, replacement, and disposal of equipment that was manufactured by the Chinese companies ZTE Corporation and Huawei Technologies Company. Both companies have close connections to the Chinese government and present significant risks to the national security of the U.S. Removing the close to 24,000 pieces of communications equipment made by China that are in use by U.S. telecom networks is critical to protecting the U.S. from spying as well as other threats.
Due to the Rip and Replace Program’s budget shortfall, only 40 percent of the expenses for eligible applicants are able to be covered. Already, the program has received 126 applications beyond its budget.
Hinson stated that the Chinese technology in the U.S. communications networks gives the CCP “backdoor access” to the personal information of Americans. She added that the bill would ensure telecom equipment that may be compromised is removed and replaced with systems that are secure.
Krishnamoorthi said the bill would help safeguard the technological infrastructure in the U.S. “from potential vulnerabilities,” according to the CCP.
Houlahan called it “unacceptable” that less than half the cost to remove the equipment could be covered by the FCC. She said the bill would increase the ability of the FCC “to safeguard our technology.”
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