The United Kingdom's Telecommunications (Security) Bill giving the government powers to ban high-risk technology companies such as Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd received its first reading in the House of Commons this week.
The security of the UK's telecoms networks is of paramount importance, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Department said in a fact sheet on the government's website Thursday. "The potential economic and social benefits of 5G and full-fiber digital connectivity can only be realized if we have confidence in the security and resilience of the underpinning telecoms infrastructure."
"This is why ensuring that the government has the power needed to manage the risks posed by high risk vendors is so important both now and for the future. Without such powers, commercial interests may take precedence over national security risks to UK telecoms networks and to the wider UK Critical National Infrastructure," it said.
The law will "give the government unprecedented new powers to boost the security standards of the UK's telecoms networks and remove the threat of high risk vendors." At present telecoms providers are responsible for developing their own security standards.
The government will be able to ban high risk vendors such as Huawei. It can impose fines up to 10% of a company's turnover, or $134,000 a day, for companies that fail to meet standards.
The Office of Communications, or Ofcom, gets new responsibilities to monitor telecoms operators' security. Ofcom is the regulatory and competition authority for the UK's broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries.
The government of prime minister Boris Johnson contends the bill is central to protecting the UK from hostile cyber activity by states and criminals. The government has blamed China, Russia, North Korea and Iran for cyberattacks against it and British companies over the past two years.
On advice from the National Cybersecurity Center, the government in July announced controls on the use of Huawei's 5G equipment. These included a ban on the purchase of new Huawei equipment from the end of 2020 and a commitment to remove all Huawei equipment from 5G networks by 2027.
"This will be a significant step to protect the U.K. from hostile cyber activity by state actors or criminals," the department said in its statement.
"Over the past two years the government has attributed a range of cyber-attacks to Russia and China, as well as North Korea and Iranian actors."
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said the bill "will give the U.K. one of the toughest telecoms security regimes in the world and allow us to take the action necessary to protect our networks."
Huawei denies its equipment poses a national security risk to the UK or any other country. Huawei vice president Victor Zhang said it was disappointing the government was looking to exclude Huawei from the 5G roll out.
"This decision is politically motivated and not based on a fair evaluation of the risks," Zhang said. "It doesn't serve anyone's best interests as it would move Britain into the digital slow lane and put at risk the government's leveling up agenda."