House Panel Advances Spanberger Plan to Protect 5G Infrastructure

November 22, 2019 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – The House Energy and Commerce Committee this week advanced Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s plan to protect 5G and next-generation wireless communications systems and mobile infrastructure in Central Virginia and across the United States. 

The Committee’s passage of the Virginia Democrat’s Secure 5G and Beyond Act lays the groundwork for the bill to receive a full vote on the floor of the House.

Last month, the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed her legislation by a unanimous vote.

The Act would require the administration to develop a national strategy to protect U.S. consumers and assist allies and partners in maximizing the security of their 5G telecommunications systems.

The national strategy would also identify additional ways to spur research and development by U.S. companies in a way that maintains access for all Americans and keeps American firms competitive.

“Chinese tech companies like Huawei and ZTE continue to extend their global grip on 5G communications—and their strategic ties to Chinese military and intelligence agencies present serious, pressing national security concerns for the United States and our allies,” Spanberger said.

“If we aren’t actively working to strengthen our resilience against these threats—especially as we see the growing adoption of these technologies in our rural communities and increasing reliance on these high-speed connections—we are putting American families, businesses, and consumer data at risk,” she said.

Spanberger said she was particularly pleased her bill received strong bipartisan support.

“By developing a national, interagency strategy, this bill would help protect the online security of our citizens and our allies as we move forward into the 21st century,” she said. “This bill would also put us on a path toward maintaining our competitive edge in the face of mounting Chinese dominance in the 5G space.”

Last month, 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.

Spanberger introduced the Secure 5G and Beyond Act in May. The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Susan Brooks, R- Ind., Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., Francis Rooney, R-Fla., Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., (D-MI-08), and Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. 

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.

The Act is companion legislation to a bill introduced in the Senate by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Mark Warner, D-Va., and Richard Burr, R-N.C.

The text of the bill can be read here.

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