Senate approves $1 billion budget to help rural carriers replace Huawei gear

The bill is now waiting for Trump's signature.

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Dafinchi via Getty Images
Dafinchi via Getty Images

The US Senate has unanimously approved a bill that would give rural carriers access to a $1 billion fund meant to help them remove and replace Huawei gear. According to The Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch, the Senate has voted to send the bill to the President a couple of months after the House approved its own version. If Trump signs it -- and a previous Politico report said top administration figures expressed their support for it -- then 40 rural carriers currently using equipment from Chinese tech giants like Huawei and ZTE will have access to the fund.

Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said in a statement:

"Telecommunications equipment from certain foreign adversaries poses a significant threat to our national security, economic prosperity, and the future of US leadership in advanced wireless technology. By establishing a 'rip and replace' program, this legislation will provide meaningful safeguards for our communications networks and more secure connections for Americans. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for coming together to help move this bill to the President's desk."

A Huawei rep criticized the legislation, telling WSJ that it's "considerably underfunded" and will "simply reduce the ability of broadband providers to provide the most secure network equipment and in turn hurt local consumers and businesses."

The FCC has also just started collecting information from carriers receiving Universal Service Fund subsidies regarding the Huawei and ZTE equipment they use. It will use the data it collects to help make its reimbursement program feasible and to figure out if it needs to apply certain measures to ensure a smooth transition.

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