WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan group of US legislators passed laws on Wednesday that provide grants totaling approximately $ 700 million to help US telecommunications providers reduce the cost of removing their Huawei devices Facilitate networks.
FILE PHOTO: Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) arrives at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing reviewing the intelligence community's assessment of "Russian activities and intentions in recent US elections" on Capitol Hill in Washington, US , May 16, 2018, rated. REUTERS / Joshua Roberts
According to a statement by the senators, the law is also intended to block the use of equipment or services of the Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE in next-generation 5G networks.
The United States has accused ZTE Corp and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd of working for the Chinese government and has expressed concerns that their equipment could be used to spy on Americans. The Chinese government and the companies consider these allegations unfounded.
"With so much at stake, our communication infrastructure must be protected against threats from foreign governments and companies like Huawei," said a statement by Tom Cotton, a Republican senator co-financing the bill.
Mark Warner, senior Democrat in the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Roger Wicker, Democratic Chairman of the Senate Trade Committee, also support the bill.
While major US mobile phone companies broke links with Huawei, small rural carriers have relied on Huawei and ZTE switches and equipment as they are often more cost effective.
The Rural Wireless Association, which represents network operators with fewer than 100,000 subscribers, estimates that 25 percent of its members have Huawei and ZTE in their networks, and that the exchange would cost $ 800-1 billion.
The move goes further than the steps that US President Donald Trump has taken so far, although he has tightened his stance on Huawei.
Last August, Trump signed a bill banning the US government from using Huawei and ZTE devices.
Then, last week, the US Department of Commerce blacklisted Huawei and 70 affiliates and prevented the company from buying parts or components from US companies without US government approval.
Five days later, the US government temporarily eased the trade restrictions, allowing the Chinese company to buy US-made goods and maintain existing networks and provide software updates to existing Huawei headsets.
Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Lisa Shumaker