A package of bills designed to give the United States an advantage over China in the race to employ 5G, the fastest wireless networks available, were passed by the House on Wednesday.
There was almost unanimous support from representatives for the three bipartisan bills, which would channel federal resources into projects that ensure international wireless policies meet global standards while protecting the growing industry against foreign influence and cyberattacks.
The H.R. 2881, the “Secure 5G, and Beyond Act of 2019” bill would require the president to develop a national security strategy to ensure the safety of 5G wireless systems and infrastructure in consultation with various Federal Agencies. Another bill, H.R. 4500, will lead U.S. companies and U.S. stakeholders to participate in global standards-setting. Furthermore, bill H.R. 575 will prohibit federal funds from being used on telecommunications equipment that could pose a threat to critical infrastructure and creates a fund to replace current equipment manufactured by particular foreign companies.
The legislation comes at a time when there are multiple concerns about cyber-security threats to the United States from the international community. 5G will offer mobile data speeds up to 100 times what is currently possible.
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) released a statement after the House passed the three bipartisan 5G security bills.
“The House continues to pass legislation that will help keep the American people safe. The whole-of-government approach of the Secure 5G and Beyond Act will force the Trump Administration to get serious about protecting Americans as 5G services are deployed. The timing is particularly important given the increased risk of cyberattacks arising from the conflict with Iran.”
The Department of Homeland Security said in a 2019 statement that its agency tasked with infrastructure security has been aware of a recent rise in malicious cyber activities directed at U.S. government agencies by Iranian regime actors and proxies.
Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) praised the House’s bipartisan passage of the bills Wednesday “to help America win the race to 5G”.
“U.S. leadership in 5G is critical for our global competitiveness. In order to beat China in a global economy and ensure America remains the best place in the world to innovate, we must win the 5G race,” said McMorris Rodgers. She added, “At the same time, it’s crucial we ensure the infrastructure our service providers use for our next-generation networks is secure.”
Rodgers expressed her concerns about acquiring equipment from companies like Huawei and ZTE, which ultimately answer to the Chinese Communist Government, “The Trump administration has prioritized American competitiveness and our national security in 5G, and these bills will help support their efforts.”
Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) voted Wednesday for the bipartisan Secure 5G and Beyond Act, a bill (H.R. 2881) which she co-led alongside U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Susan W. Brooks (R-Ind.), Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), Francis Rooney (R-Fla.), and Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.).
She championed the legislation because it would protect “next-generation telecommunications systems and mobile infrastructure in the United States.”
“I am proud to pass this important bill to provide clarity, and inter-agency strategy to secure 5th generation and future-generation telecommunications systems and infrastructure across the United States,” Congresswoman Stefanik said. “Ensuring the United States remains a leading global competitor in both the economy and technology is critical to the future of our nation. This bipartisan legislation requires the president to implement a strategy to secure these systems and maximize their security,” she added.
President Donald Trump has been clear about the importance of the United States leading the global market in developing 5G promptly.
“Secure 5G networks will absolutely be a vital link to America’s prosperity and national security in the 21st century,” Trump said in April 2019 at the White House, “It will transform the way our citizens work, learn, communicate, and travel. It will make American farms more productive, American manufacturing more competitive, and American healthcare better and more accessible.”
“It’s a race that we will win,” he continued.
Security risks posed by Chinese companies including Huawei has received heightened scrutiny in the United States and have prompted calls to set standards around 5G network development.
The U.S. Commerce Department banned U.S. companies from selling any products to Huawei in May 2019 but more recently has granted licenses to allow some companies to sell to Huawei.
U.S. officials and experts warn that equipment from the Chinese telecoms giant could be used by the regime for spying or to disrupt communication networks. This is due to the company’s close ties with the Chinese regime, as well as Chinese law that compels companies to cooperate with intelligence agencies when asked.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who introduced Secure 5G and Beyond Act, warned against the growing influence of Huawei and ZTE on Wednesday, pointing to her legislation as an effective means to restrain the Chinese companies.
“To protect the privacy, data, and security of American consumers and companies, we need a national game plan to defend U.S. wireless systems from the next wave of cyber threats,” Spanberger said, adding: “As we witness the growing influence of foreign-based 5G companies like Huawei and ZTE, this bill would level the playing field for American tech companies and defend the online security of American families and businesses.”