On the front line of the digital divide, Cortez asks voters to pursue local broadband


U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet was among a bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday to introduce legislation to fund the creation of a cellular network to compete with the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE.

“We should not accept a world that is forced to rely on Chinese telecommunication companies to unlock the benefits of 5G and next generation wireless technologies,” Bennet said in a statement.

The Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act would require the Federal Communications Commission to divert at least $750 million in spectrum auction proceeds to grants for developing mobile broadband technologies. There would be another $500 million fund to promote “secure and trusted” technology.

The legislation also directs the administration to have the U.S. be a presence at international forums that set standards for 5G and future generations of wireless networks.

Bennet’s office added that Huawei has “close ties to the Communist Party of China” and therefore presents “unacceptable risks to our national security and to the integrity of information networks globally.” Bennet pointed to a lack of viable competitors as a reason for other countries’ use of the Chinese technologies.

Although the federal government worries that Huawei’s technology can be used to enable spying by China, The Colorado Sun reported in November that the cost to Fort Morgan-based Viaero Wireless for removing Huawei components from its network would be $410 million. An FCC policy intended to "rip and replace" Chinese components could cost rural broadband networks between $1 billion and $2 billion.

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