WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger’s legislation to protect next-generation U.S. telecommunications systems and mobile infrastructure will come up for consideration on the House floor tomorrow—Wednesday, January 8, 2020. Spanberger worked to build a strong bipartisan coalition in support of her bill, with 11 Republicans and 16 Democrats cosponsoring the legislation.
In November 2019, the Federal Communications Commission placed greater restrictions on Huawei and fellow Chinese tech firm 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. This strategy would also identify additional ways to spur research and development by U.S. companies in a way that maintains reliable internet access for all Americans.
“As Huawei and ZTE aggressively work to expand their footprint in Europe and around the world, substantial national security concerns are emerging. As a result, many of our allies—including Great Britain and Germany—are demonstrating necessary caution before implementing these systems, and we need to do the same,” said Spanberger. “That’s why I’m proud to see my bill come to the floor of the U.S. House with strong support from both Democrats and Republicans, because we are long overdue for a national strategy to protect against threats from the growing influence of 5G-focused companies like Huawei. The economic potential of 5G infrastructure growth in the United States is tremendous, but we need to pursue this growth with all of the security risks in mind—and my bill would make sure steps are put in place to protect against these cyber-threats.”
In May 2019, Spanberger introduced the Secure 5G and Beyond Act alongside 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). Her bill 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).
Spanberger’s bipartisan bill was passed in the House Foreign Affairs Committee in October 2019 and passed in the House Energy and Commerce Committee in November 2019.
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.
Click here to read the full bill text.
The Chinese government’s “Made in China 2025” plan calls 5G a “strategic emerging industry.” As of February 2019, Chinese tech companies owned 36 percent of all 5G standard-essential patents, whereas U.S.-based companies only possessed 14 percent of critical 5G patents.
Last year, then-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.