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A strong US 5G sector promises good jobs and better security

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On Dec. 12, 1901, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi demonstrated the very first transatlantic radio-wave transmission and ushered in a new age of wireless communications. More than a century later, wireless technology still is one of our primary sources of communication. But as our radio-wave highways become increasingly congested, each new generation of wireless technology is forced to ascend into higher and higher frequencies. The fifth generation of wireless technology, known as “5G,” will expand into spectrum bands Marconi could never have foreseen.

Because it will allow data to be transmitted more quickly and efficiently than ever before, 5G technology has the potential to improve everything from search and rescue missions and medical care to transportation, real-time language translation and precision farming. It could allow firefighters to use thermal imaging to see through smoke and locate victims more easily. It could help specialists perform remote robotic surgery on patients who are far away. And it could help American soldiers on the battlefield, giving them real-time information about their adversaries while monitoring their status and location. Such developments could revolutionize the technological landscape and pump trillions of dollars into our global economy. Perhaps most important, 5G could create millions of new U.S. jobs and become integral to our competitiveness in the global marketplace.

But like any new technology, 5G is not without risks. Currently, the only global company that is competitively producing all of the equipment necessary to fully implement 5G is China-based Huawei. While Huawei calls itself “employee-owned,” Chinese laws require companies to assist in national intelligence work unbeknownst to their customers — potentially rendering the equipment unsecure. This presents a major challenge for 5G implementation in the United States, since American companies either have to invent their own equipment or utilize Huawei’s — knowing that it could be accessed by the Chinese government.

To address this challenge, the Trump administration has been working with American companies like Dell, Microsoft and AT&T to develop 5G alternatives to Huawei. But the administration is not currently providing the funding and research necessary for these companies to achieve 5G technology at a competitive price – leaving our domestic wireless technology lagging and our national security at risk.

That’s where Congress has an obligation to lend a hand. To help keep our country and technology secure, I authored the Reducing Foreign Influence in 5G Act. This law requires the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to assess the national security and intelligence risks posed by broader international adoption of 5G networks built by foreign companies. Specifically, the DNI must report on our best strategies to counter and contain such threats by increasing data encryption requirements, promoting open-source 5G wireless technologies to avoid using compromised technology, and providing subsidies for adopting secure 5G alternatives.

Another way for Congress to boost our domestic 5G industry is to incentivize innovation by establishing prize competitions. Government-sponsored competitions have stimulated innovations for centuries, contributing to the development of systems reducing agricultural waste, robocall-blocking technology, and anti-Ebola technology.

My legislation, the “PRIZE 5G Tech” Act, established a competition awarding a $5 million prize to anyone in the U.S. who can develop 5G infrastructure as good and as cheap as Huawei’s. When that competition begins, it will give American innovators an incentive to generate a host of potentially groundbreaking 5G technologies. This could put the U.S. in the forefront of 5G development and new jobs rather than allowing those benefits to accrue to our competitors overseas.

Marconi’s invention of wireless communications more than a century ago kicked off a technological revolution that changed the world. The advent of 5G wireless technology presents another historic opportunity. We must ensure that U.S. innovators and companies are on the cutting edge of this technology – both for the economic growth and jobs it promises and to protect our nation’s security.

Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Illinois, is the former-president of two technology companies and a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Tags 5G Huawei Raja Krishnamoorthi

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