The Senate unanimously voted Thursday to grant rural telecom carriers a cool $1 billion in funding to help them ditch and replace any existing equipment from Chinese manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE. Its official name is the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act, but many simply call it the “rip and replace” bill because, well, that’s what it aims to do.
This bipartisan measure previously breezed through the House with a similarly unanimous vote last December, and it comes as Huawei, the largest telecommunications equipment provider in the world and a leading cell phone manufacturer, stands ready to begin rolling out infrastructure for building 5G networks, as it’s already begun in Europe despite constant needling from top American officials.
The bill still needs the president’s OK before it becomes official, but that honestly feels like a technicality at this point given how wary both President Donald Trump and previous administrations have remained about allowing Huawei equipment into the country’s telecommunications network. Since 2012, the company’s ostensibly been banned from selling any equipment stateside due to national security concerns.
Earlier this month, government officials claimed they’d found a “smoking gun” to prove, after years of accusations and repeated denials from Huawei, that the company had been spying on users of mobile phone networks that relied on its stateside equipment. The company currently faces multiple indictments from the Department of Justice for alleged banking and financial fraud among other accusations.