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Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost American 5G efforts

Lawmakers introduce legislation to boost American 5G efforts
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A bipartisan group of House lawmakers on Friday introduced legislation to financially boost American fifth generation, or 5G, wireless technologies following concerns that Chinese telecommunications groups such as Huawei or ZTE pose national security threats.

The USA Telecommunications Act would set aside $750 million within a grant program overseen by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to help support the deployment and use of 5G networks in the U.S. 

The bill would also establish an advisory committee that would include the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other federal agencies as well as representatives from the public and private sectors to advise on the grant funding.

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Sponsors of the bill include House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and ranking member Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenRace heats up for top GOP post on powerful Energy and Commerce Committee Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Hillicon Valley: Judge's ruling creates fresh hurdle for TikTok | House passes bills to secure energy sector against cyberattacks | Biden campaign urges Facebook to remove Trump posts spreading 'falsehoods' MORE (R-Ore.), along with Reps. Brett GuthrieSteven (Brett) Brett GuthrieVaccine development process is safe, claims of the contrary are baseless Ignore the misinformation: The FDA will ensure the safety of any COVID-19 vaccine House Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections MORE (R-Ky.) and Doris MatsuiDoris Okada MatsuiHillicon Valley: Trump refuses to condemn QAnon | Twitter revises its policy, lets users share disputed article | Google sees foreign cyber threats Democrats introduce bill providing 0 million to protect schools from cyberattacks The Senate must act to reauthorize cell transplantation program MORE (D-Calif.).

“The USA Telecommunications Act of 2020’ will encourage more competition in the network equipment market and help lower costs for trusted equipment over the long term,” the sponsors said Friday in a joint statement. “By promoting a more competitive market of trusted alternatives to suspect 5G equipment, we can more easily secure our critical networks and bring like-minded countries with us.”

The legislation is meant to provide funding to counter the influence of Chinese telecom groups like Huawei and ZTE on 5G systems. There has been strong bipartisan pushback against the two companies from both Capitol Hill and the White House over the past year, with the Department of Commerce essentially blacklisting Huawei by adding it to its “entity list” in 2019.

Beyond this step, President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE signed into law multiple pieces of legislation last month that ban use of federal funds to purchase Huawei equipment. The FCC classified both Huawei and ZTE as national security threats late last year and unanimously banned U.S. telecom groups from using FCC funds to purchase equipment from the groups. 

Concerns around Huawei, which is the largest 5G equipment manufacturer in the world, have stemmed from a Chinese intelligence law that requires companies and citizens to participate in state intelligence work if requested, including sharing data with the government. Huawei has consistently pushed back against accusations of espionage. 

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The House sponsors pointed to concerns around Huawei and ZTE in promoting the new legislation, particularly in light of the fact there is currently no major American 5G equipment alternative. 

“Congress took strong action to protect our communications networks against foreign interference from dangerous companies like Huawei and ZTE,” the sponsors said. “Now, we must follow that up by promoting equipment and technologies that can ensure a more diverse, sustainable and competitive supply chain for America’s 5G networks.”

The same bill was previously introduced in the Senate in January by lawmakers including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrAs Trump downplayed the virus publicly, memo based on private briefings sparked stock sell-offs: NYT Hillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns Bipartisan representatives demand answers on expired surveillance programs MORE (R-N.C.) and ranking member Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate Intel leadership urges American vigilance amid foreign election interference Intel officials say Iran, Russia seeking to influence election Senate Intel leaders warn of election systems threats MORE (D-Va.).