House passes bills to gain upper hand in race to 5G
The House on Wednesday passed a slew of bills aimed at giving the U.S. a leg up over China in the race to implement the super-fast next-generation wireless networks known as 5G.
The trio of bipartisan bills, which passed the House near-unanimously, would funnel U.S. government resources into steering international wireless policy while securing the burgeoning networks against cyberattacks and foreign influence.
The legislation comes as the U.S. works to win the "race to 5G," which will enable a generation of Internet-connected devices and offer mobile data speeds up to 100 times what is currently possible. Congress and the Trump administration have been working to diminish the power of Chinese telecommunications companies currently dominating the 5G industry while pouring more money into efforts to build out the networks in the U.S.
“All three of these bills are important for securing America’s wireless future, and we hope they won’t languish in the Senate," Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) and communications subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) said in a statement.
The House on Wednesday also passed a resolution calling on the U.S. to follow a set of international cybersecurity standards as it develops 5G capabilities.
"The next generation of next-generation telecommunications systems is going to revolutionize our economy," Rep. Tom O'Halleran (D-Ariz.) said on the House floor ahead of the vote. "With the rapid expansion of new technology infrastructure, it is critical that these systems are secure, and the privacy of all Americans is protected."
Two of the bills – the Promoting United States International Leadership in 5G Act and Promoting United States Wireless Leadership Act – would require the U.S. to become more involved in international standard-setting bodies around wireless networks, which have seen increased involvement from China in recent years. Together, the bills would direct the Secretary of State and a key telecom adviser to boost America's presence on communications panels around the world.
The U.S. has long warned against allowing China to set the standards around 5G network development, pointing to Beijing's track record of disregarding human rights and intellectual property rules.
Meanwhile, the Secure 5G and Beyond Act, which passed 413-3, would draw up a "whole-of-government" strategy to protect U.S. telecommunications networks from national security threats posed by Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei and ZTE, which are currently leading the rollout of 5G networks worldwide.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), who introduced the bill with a group of bipartisan colleagues last year, warned against the growing influence of Huawei and ZTE on Wednesday, pointing to her legislation as an effective method to knee-cap the successful Chinese companies.
“To protect the privacy, data, and security of American consumers and companies, we need a national game plan to defend U.S. wireless systems from the next wave of cyber threats," Spanberger said. "As we witness the growing influence of foreign-based 5G companies like Huawei and ZTE, this bill would level the playing field for American tech companies and defend the online security of American families and businesses."
The Secure 5G and Beyond Act would require the administration to create an “unclassified national strategy” to protect the U.S. consumers and allies from threats to 5G systems. The strategy would include language on ways to encourage research and development by U.S. companies around maintaining access to 5G for all Americans, and on protecting the “competitiveness” of U.S. companies.
The House bill has a companion in the Senate, increasing the likelihood that it will reach the president's desk.