U.S. lawmakers back $1.9 billion to replace telecom equipment from China's Huawei, ZTE - sources

By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Legislature will allocate $ 1.9 billion to fund a telecommunications network device removal program that the U.S. government says poses a national security risk under a $ 900 billion COVID-19 relief bill. Two sources reported this on Sunday.
Legislators will also allocate $ 3.2 billion in emergency broadband benefits for low-income Americans, senior congressional assistants confirmed after Reuters first reported planned broadband spending.
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The COVID-19 Relief Act is investing $ 7 billion to improve broadband access, House spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic chairman Chuck Schumer said in a statement. The low-income program will "help millions of students, families and unemployed workers afford broadband." they need during the pandemic. "
The Federal Communications Commission announced in June that it had officially identified China's Huawei Technologies Co and ZTE Corp as a threat. This statement prevents U.S. firms from drawing on a $ 8.3 billion government fund to buy equipment from the companies.
Earlier this month, the FCC laid down rules that require network operators with ZTE or Huawei devices to "rip and replace" these devices while awaiting funding from Congress.
Huawei said earlier this month it was disappointed with the FCC's decision to "force the removal of our products from telecommunications networks. This over-range puts US citizens in the largely underserved rural areas - during a pandemic - at risk when reliable communications are essential."
The bill "envisages a temporary emergency broadband benefit program with the FCC to help low-income Americans, including those economically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, connect or stay connected to broadband," said the bill a fact sheet consulted by Reuters.
The source also said the program will give a $ 50 monthly grant to qualified households "to help them get broadband services and an Internet-connected device."
The bill also extends eligibility for the rip-and-replace reimbursement program to communications providers with 10 million subscribers or fewer, but prioritizes reimbursement for providers with 2 million subscribers or fewer, the source said, citing a draft fact sheet.
The bill will include $ 285 million for minority interconnection and will create an office for broadband minority initiatives at the National Administration for Telecommunications and Information (NTIA).
It will also offer funding to "support educational institutions that serve minorities, even as they work with minority-owned companies to expand broadband capacity and use in the school and the surrounding community," the Reuters said Fact sheet.
It also includes approximately $ 250 million for additional FCC support for telemedicine and $ 1 billion for an NTIA broadband connection granting program for tribal connections.
There is a separate NTIA grant program of $ 300 million to support broadband expansion for underserved Americans, especially in rural areas, and $ 65 million for better broadband cards.
This will fully fund the development of new, more accurate broadband availability cards by the FCC so that the agency can better leverage government funding for broadband delivery.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker, Sonya Hepinstall and Diane Craft)

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