5G infrastructure should be a force for good

5G infrastructure should be a force for good
© iStock/The Hill Illustration

When many of us think of fifth generation cellular technology, or 5G, we think only of our cellphones. But this next-generation technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we live, work and connect to the global economy. 5G will impact nearly every industry, powering remote health care, precision agriculture, artificial intelligence and even make self-driving autonomous vehicles a reality. Once widespread, 5G will touch almost every aspect of our lives. With this major technological advancement, there must also be a substantial investment in the necessary infrastructure.

Today, companies linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are subsidizing these networks around the globe at an artificially reduced price, giving them a competitive advantage in the global race to 5G. Many policymakers have serious national security concerns over foreign bad actors who are seeking to exploit this technology for their own benefit. Simply put, the U.S. cannot allow the Chinese to purchase a backdoor into other countries' wireless infrastructure and data. This must be part of the conversation as Congress debates improvements to our nation’s, and other nations’, infrastructure. The Chinese government must be held accountable and 5G has the potential to be a catalyst that can facilitate their equitable role in the global economy.

With any new technology comes a global race for market share. When it comes to 5G, we cannot allow the CCP to compromise these networks around the world. Therefore, the United States must have sound policy when it comes to financing and protecting wireless technology infrastructure. Earlier this year, I reintroduced H.R. 4493, the Promoting Secure 5G Act of 2021, to establish a U.S. policy at all international financial institutions in support of financing for wireless technologies — including 5G networks — only if the technologies include appropriate security measures. This legislation would make funding 5G infrastructure projects through institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, etc., a priority, and it would encourage cooperation with U.S. allies to strengthen support for secure wireless technologies.

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Securing multilateral financing for 5G technology is the first step in facilitating equitable competition in the global economy. This will eliminate backdoor vulnerabilities that private companies and other nations may seek to exploit. One of the biggest offenders is Huawei, a Chinese-based company with direct links to the CCP. The Chinese government has a well-documented history of not respecting intellectual property, individual privacy or personal property in general. These concerns have come to the forefront regarding 5G. Huawei’s subsidized product is ready to deploy, but a growing chorus of commercial and government actors are adamant that Huawei’s 5G is not secure and the Chinese government and intelligence agencies are bad actors using Huawei to advance their interests abroad.

This should concern every American. Should the CCP gain a backdoor to the global 5G networks, they could use it to spy on Americans and our allies, access our data or even outright control the technology itself. This would be a grave threat to our national security and cybersecurity and would make the U.S. vulnerable to an increasingly aggressive China.

It is not just the U.S. that has concerns regarding the security of 5G technology infrastructure. Our allies and international partners share similar sentiments as they construct their networks. Recently, the United Kingdom reversed course and outright banned Huawei by 2027. France announced it will no longer renew licenses for Huawei. Denmark and Singapore have taken steps to avoid Huawei. India has also excluded the company from its 5G trials.

Despite this progress, the next battles will likely be in the developing world. Countries in Africa and Asia will be tempted by the subsidized products Huawei can offer due to its quasi state-owned enterprise status with the CCP. My legislation would block financing for these projects at key regional banks in the developing world such as the Asian and African Development Banks. The CCP has strengthened its ties with the developing world through its Belt and Road Initiative, building modern infrastructure in countries at steeply discounted rates. The CCP will try to do the same for 5G networks, which is why the U.S. should counter CCP efforts by forcing countries to choose between cheap Chinese offerings and traditional financing.

We cannot idly sit by and allow the CCP to control the 5G infrastructure currently being deployed. The U.S. has taken steps to preclude Huawei from supplying products for our networks, and now we must look to other countries to ensure their networks are secure as well.

Protecting 5G infrastructure around the world and ensuring every nation adheres to the standards of the global economy when it comes to this technology is an absolute must. Our intelligence community has repeatedly warned of the consequences of handing over the world’s 5G systems to Huawei and the CCP — we would be wise to heed their warning. Countering the CCP will require a whole-of-government approach, and enacting the Promoting Secure 5G Act would be a good first step in halting their influence and ensuring the security of 5G networks. With any technological breakthrough, there is potential for both human flourishing and human suffering depending on how it is used or abused. With 5G, the stakes for freedom and self-determination are particularly high. We simply cannot trust the CCP to place any sort of value on these ideals.

The U.S. must lead our allies in the global community to incentivize the Chinese to become equitable partners in the global economy. Holding the Chinese accountable for attempting to exploit next-generation cellular technology for their gain is only the first step. The international community must also enforce intellectual property rights and ban the subsidization of Chinese businesses in order to create parity in the global economy. The competitiveness of non-Chinese businesses and other nations' economies depends on it.

William TimmonsWilliam Evan Timmons5G infrastructure should be a force for good Photos of the Week: Congressional Baseball Game, ashen trees and a beach horse Democrats seek staffer salary boost to compete with K Street MORE represents South Carolina’s 4th District