By Voice of America -, Public Domain,

In a rare moment of bipartisan unity, a group of Republican and Democrat senators have introduced a measure to strip Communist Chinese-made equipment from America’s communications infrastructure, citing the threat to national security.

U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE) and John Hickenlooper (D-CO) have introduced the Defend Our Networks Act, which would harness unused emergency COVID-relief funds to fill a funding shortfall in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) “Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program,” known as the “Rip and Replace Program.”

“We know that there are thousands of pieces of high-risk Chinese equipment in our nation’s communications infrastructure. We know that, left unchecked, this equipment poses a direct threat to U.S. national security. Yet the current program shortfall is preventing eligible carriers from accessing the resources they need to cover the costs of replacing dangerous network gear. I’m proud to introduce the Defend Our Networks Act with Senator Hickenlooper to prioritize protecting our nation from rising threats posed by the CCP and supporting our rural communities,” said Fischer.

“We can’t let the Chinese government be embedded in our critical telecommunications networks. We’ve banned their equipment. Now we need to replace what’s already there. Our Defend Our Networks Act will protect our rural wireless networks by ripping out risky equipment,” said Hickenlooper.

It is estimated there are around 24,000 pieces of Chinese-made communications equipment across the United States, placing America at extreme risk should Beijing choose to remote shut down the equipment in case of a conflict, or use it to interfere with or spy on American communications.

The “Rip and Replace” program, created in 2020, reimburses smaller communications service providers for the costs of removing and replacing network equipment made in Communist China.

The program is currently $3.08 billion short.

“With close ties to the Communist Party of China, equipment from Huawei Technologies Company and ZTE Corporation present significant risks to U.S. national security and domestic communications networks. The FCC has prohibited the purchase of Huawei and ZTE products, and banned the use of FCC funds to expand or maintain networks containing any Huawei or ZTE equipment,” Fischer’s office reports.

“The Defend Our Networks Act would address the FCC’s funding shortfall by reallocating roughly 3% of unspent and unobligated emergency COVID-relief funds to the FCC’s Reimbursement Program, strengthening communications networks nationwide and bolstering U.S. national security,” Fischer’s office adds.


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