House Foreign Affairs Committee passes Spanberger bill to build national 5G strategy

Abigail SpanbergerThe House Foreign Affairs Committee passed Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s legislation to protect 5G telecommunications systems and mobile infrastructure.

Earlier this week, the Federal Communications Commission announced its intention to place greater restrictions on Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei and ZTE due to widespread security concerns. According to a 2018 North Atlantic Treaty Organization report, Huawei’s growing influence as a leading supplier of 5G technology could be exploited by China to engage in espionage, monitor foreign corporations and governments, and support Chinese military operations.

The Spanberger-led Secure 5G and Beyond Act would require the administration to develop an unclassified, national strategy to protect U.S. consumers and assist allies in maximizing the security of their 5G telecommunications systems. The strategy would also identify additional ways to spur research and development by U.S. companies in a way that maintains access for all Americans.

“In the face of mounting cybersecurity threats from China, the United States must develop a national gameplan to safeguard our telecommunications infrastructure. This strategy needs to recognize that, with the integration of Chinese 5G technology in countries around the world, the threat of foreign influence in our 5G networks—and those of our partners and allies—continues to grow,” said Spanberger. “Today, I was proud to see my Secure 5G and Beyond Act pass out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and I thank my colleagues for demonstrating strong bipartisan support in defending Americans’ access to the next generation of cutting-edge technology. Especially as we look to expand internet connectivity in rural and underserved areas across the country, it’s imperative that we build a strategy to contain the growing prominence of Huawei, level the playing field for American tech companies, and protect the privacy of American families and businesses.”

Ahead of the bill’s passage out of the Committee, Spanberger discussed the urgent need for a comprehensive plan to protect the competitiveness of U.S. companies and the privacy of U.S. consumers in the face of threats from Chinese telecommunications firms.

Spanberger introduced the Secure 5G and Beyond Act in May 2019. Her bill is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Susan W. Brooks (R-IN-05), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-01), Francis Rooney (R-FL-19), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI-08), and Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21).

Currently, the Chinese government’s Made in China 2025 plan calls 5G a “strategic emerging industry.” Already, Chinese tech companies own 36 percent of all 5G standard-essential patents, whereas U.S.-based companies only possess 14 percent of critical 5G patents. Earlier this year, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford called the potential risks of a Chinese-built 5G network “a critical national security issue” for the United States.

Specifically, the bipartisan Secure 5G and Beyond Act would require the administration to build an interagency strategy to:

  • Secure 5th generation and future-generation telecommunications systems and infrastructure across the United States,
  • Assist U.S. allies and defense partners in maximizing the security of 5G systems and infrastructure in their countries, and
  • Protect the competitiveness of U.S. companies, the privacy of U.S. consumers, and the integrity of international standards-setting bodies against foreign political influence.

The Secure 5G and Beyond Act is companion legislation to a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Richard Burr (R-NC).

Click here to read the full bill text.

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