The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved two bills during an Aug. 4 business meeting, one to ensure that the Federal Communications Commission does not approve radio frequency devices that pose a national security risk, and another to advance the adoption of composite technology.

The Secure Equipment Act of 2021, sponsored by Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt rules clarifying that it will no longer review or issue new equipment licenses to companies – such as China-based companies Huawei and ZTE – on the agency’s “Covered Equipment or Services List” that pose a national security threat. The FCC is required to maintain this list under the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019, which laid out detailed criteria for determining what communications equipment or services pose an unacceptable risk to U.S. safety.

“In today’s increasingly connected world, we must animate our technology with our values,” Sen. Markey said when the bill cleared the committee. “That’s why our bipartisan legislation will keep compromised equipment out of U.S. telecommunications networks and ensure our technology is safe for consumers and secure for the United States.”

Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Steve Scalise, R-La., have introduced companion legislation in the House, and the bill was recently advanced by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“Chinese state-directed companies, like Huawei and ZTE, have no place in our telecommunications network,” said Sen. Rubio. “This bill would keep compromised equipment from bad actors out of critical U.S. infrastructure.”

The bill’s approval by the committee was also praised by FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

“The Secure Equipment Act of 2021 will help keep our country safe by ensuring that untrustworthy communications equipment is not authorized for use within our borders. These latest efforts align with my efforts to update the Federal Communications Commission’s equipment authorization procedures,” said Rosenworcel. “I thank Senators Markey and Rubio for their dedication to this issue – having this policy written into the law will send a strong, bipartisan signal that the United States is serious about developing a robust market for secure 5G alternatives.”

The Senate committee also advanced the Composites Standards Act of 2021 to the Senate floor for further consideration.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.V., Gary Peters, D-Mich., and Brian Schatz, D- Hawai’i, would direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop a data clearinghouse to disseminate guidance on composite technology in sustainable infrastructure.

“Infrastructure has been and continues to be a top bipartisan priority,” said Sen. Capito. “As we continue working to improve, rebuild, and grow America’s infrastructure, it’s important that we make sure individuals and businesses have the information they need to get it right.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs