President Biden signed into law the Secure Equipment Act of 2021. The bipartisan Secure Equipment Act of 2021 aims to empower the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to restrict equipment authorization to companies — such as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) state-backed firms Huawei and ZTE — on the agency’s “Covered Equipment or Services List.” 

In 2020, the FCC adopted new rules to require that U.S. telecommunications carriers rip out and replace equipment provided by “covered” companies. While that was an important step, those rules only apply to equipment purchased with federal funding. The very same equipment can still be used if purchased with private or non-federal government dollars. The legislation closes this loophole by directing the FCC to adopt rules to clarify that it will no longer review or issue new equipment licenses to companies on the agency’s “Covered Equipment or Services List” that pose a national security threat, such as Chinese state-backed firms Huawei and ZTE.

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 which communications equipment or services pose an unacceptable risk to U.S. safety. In October, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the bill, in the wake of the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of companion legislation introduced by U.S. Representatives Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA).

“The Secure Equipment Act becoming law is an important step in bolstering the privacy and security of all Americans as the threat of malicious Chinese technology devices deployed in American homes, schools, and workplaces continues to escalate,” said China Tech Threat Co-Founder Dr. Roslyn Layton. 

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said, “[The] Secure Equipment Act is now the law of the land and will ensure that insecure equipment from Huawei, ZTE, and other untrustworthy entities can no longer be inserted into our communications networks. This gear poses an unacceptable risk to our national security. I am pleased with the overwhelming support their legislation has received in Congress to close the Huawei Loophole and for President Biden’s signature enacting this important reform.”