House committee advances bill to secure 5G networks

The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee advanced legislation that would protect 5G telecommunications systems and mobile infrastructure in the United States.

The bill — the Secure 5G and Beyond Act — would require the administration to develop an unclassified, national strategy to maximize the security of 5G telecommunications systems. It comes following the announcement by the
Federal Communications Commission that it would place greater restrictions on Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei and ZTE due to widespread security concerns.

Huawei’s growing influence as a leading supplier of 5G technology could be exploited by China to engage in espionage and monitor corporations and governments, according to a 2018 report by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Currently, Chinese tech companies own 36 percent of all 5G standard-essential patents compared to just 14 percent for U.S.-based companies.

“In the face of mounting cybersecurity threats from China, the United States must develop a national game plan to safeguard our telecommunications infrastructure,” U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, the sponsor of the bill, said. “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.”

The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Susan W. Brooks (R-IN), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Francis Rooney (R-FL), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), and Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

“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,” Spanberger said.

Specifically, the bill would require the administration to build a plan to secure 5G systems and infrastructure, assist allies and defense partners in maximizing the security of 5G systems and infrastructure in their countries, and protect the competitiveness of U.S. companies and the privacy of U.S. consumers.

A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Richard Burr (R-NC).

Dave Kovaleski

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