U.S. Bill Seeks Funding For 5G Networks In Eastern Europe To Counter Chinese Influence

Legislation has been reintroduced in the U.S. Congress to increase funding for 5G telecommunications and digital infrastructure development in Eastern European countries.

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The sponsors of the legislation said on May 19 it was important to fund such projects in countries with “infrastructure deficits” remaining from the Soviet era that make them “especially vulnerable to malign Chinese influence.”

The Transatlantic Telecommunications Security Act would authorize the U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to provide financing for 5G network development to U.S. allies and partners in the region, its sponsors said.

The bill aims to ensure that the United States “is leading with our European allies to develop international 5G standards that favor democratic institutions, not further authoritarianism spread by China,” Representatives Marcy Kaptur (Democrat-Ohio) and Adam Kinzinger (Republican-Illinois) said.

“The United States and our allies are facing increasing threats from state-linked companies in China as they seek to infiltrate and undermine democratic institutions,” Kaptur said in a news release.

The new 5G networks will serve as the backbone of transatlantic telecommunications infrastructure for years to come, fostering greater development of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence.

“With those advances come immense national security and economic implications,” Kaptur said. “That is why it is critical that these networks be kept safe from malign foreign influence.”

Kinzinger said in the news release that the growing threat from China “has made it increasingly important for the United States and our allies to shore up our shared communications.”

U.S. assistance to Central and Eastern European countries in building out their 5G networks “can further help defend the freedom of speech, press, and religion across the continent,” Kinzinger said.

Some countries in Central and Southeastern Europe have already banned Chinese tech giant Huawei as part of a rollback of China’s dominance in 5G telecommunications. Romania last year implemented such a ban.

The decision came shortly after an announcement in October that the U.S. State Department had signed deals with Slovakia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bulgaria on high-speed wireless network technology.

The U.S. government has accused the Chinese company of using its technology to spy on behalf of the Chinese government. Huawei denies the allegations and argues that U.S. protectionism is motivating its decisions.