Peters Bipartisan Bill to Protect American Telecommunications Networks from Foreign Suppliers Advances in Senate

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today applauded the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee for passing his bipartisan legislation that would help safeguard American telecommunications networks against cyber threats from untrusted foreign equipment suppliers. The Ensuring Network Security Act, which Peters introduced with Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), would expand access to federal funding for telecommunications providers and educational institutions for the removal and replacement of prohibited telecommunications equipment from dangerous sources. This follows a letter Peters and Johnson wrote in July to Senate leaders regarding the need to prioritize removal of high-risk equipment from untrusted foreign suppliers.

“We must have affordable and reliable telecommunications grids that can withstand national security and economic challenges especially as we continue to become increasingly interconnected during this pandemic,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and a member of the Commerce, Science and Technology Committee. “This bipartisan bill will further transition our nation away from relying on foreign telecommunications networks while incentivizing and encouraging domestic suppliers. I will continue pressing to enact this bill so we can strengthen the network security for people all across Michigan.”

“Addressing vulnerabilities associated with the development and deployment of 5G technology is a critical issue Congress must stay on top of. I’m pleased this important legislation, that would give telecommunications carriers access to funds to ‘rip and replace’ equipment which poses a national security threat, was passed out of the Commerce Committee today. I encourage Senate leadership to quickly bring this bill up for a vote,” said Senator Johnson.

“I thank the Senate Commerce Committee for favorably reporting the Ensuring Network Security Act out of Committee during today’s markup and commend Senators Peters, Johnson, and Blunt for their leadership,” said Steven K. Berry, President & CEO, Competitive Carriers Association. “The legislation clearly recognizes the importance of addressing national security threats and providing sufficient funding to ensure that those most in need, specifically smaller carriers and providers serving high cost areas, are able to replace covered network elements.  The reimbursement program is an absolutely essential component to ensuring carriers can continue to provide critical mobile broadband services to their customers, and I thank the Committee for its focus on this important legislation. We are committed to work with Congress to secure critically needed funding and hope this bi-partisan support will spur appropriations funding as soon as possible.”

The Ensuring Network Security Act would allow both telecommunications carriers that service up to ten million customers and public and private educational institutions to apply for this funding through the Federal Communications Commission. The bill builds off the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act signed into law earlier this year, which prohibits telecommunications companies from installing equipment from untrusted suppliers and formed a program to reimburse telecommunications providers serving under two million customers.

Peters has led numerous efforts to bolster American cybersecurity. In July, Peters introduced legislation that would enable the National Guard to provide remote cybersecurity support and technical assistance to help states respond to cyber incidents. Peters also introduced a bipartisan bill this past January that would ensure that each state has its own Cybersecurity Coordinator, who would be responsible for helping to prevent and respond to cybersecurity threats by working with federal, state, and local governments as well as schools, hospitals, utilities and other entities at risk of cyber-attacks. Peters also introduced bipartisan legislation to implement stronger cybersecurity protections for K-12 educational institutions across the country. Schools are responsible for securing a considerable amount of sensitive records related to their students and employees, including student grades, family records, medical histories, and employment information.