Senators Pitch 5G National Security Strategy, Emphasize Removal of Chinese Products

(Image: The Hill)

A group of five senators released bipartisan legislation that would create a national policy to securely deploy commercial 5G networks and establish an up to $700 million grant program to aid American communications providers in removing Chinese products from their networks.

Sens. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Mark Warner, D-Va., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, introduced the bill, called the United States 5G Leadership Act of 2019, as conflict over the adoption of Chinese telecommunications networks and products – particularly from firms like Huawei and ZTE – continues to rise.

The legislation follows a May 15 White House executive order (EO) that bans acquisition of telecommunications technology that the Commerce Department tags as a national security risk. The senators’ legislation leans into the EO and provides more specific details on how it will incentive not just Federal bodies, but industry providers, in purging Chinese telecom equipment.

More specifically, the bill would establish:

  • Policy to promote secure commercial deployment of 5G networks and the development of U.S. Information and Communications Technology;
  • Policy to identify a wider spectrum for 5G, “with an emphasis on promoting harmonization with global allocations;
  • Provisions that U.S. 5G networks will adopt have Huawei, ZTE, or other affiliates’ technologies or services;
  • The authority of the Federal Communications Commission to ban use of Universal Service Fund subsidies to buy equipment or services from providers deemed a national security risk;
  • The Supply Chain Security Trust Fund to provide up to $700 million to assist in Chinese equipment removal from providers’ networks; and
  • Funding to boost American representation in international 5G standards-setting bodies, like the International Telecommunications Union.

In statements concerning the legislation, the senators who introduced the bill emphasized the risk of Huawei and ZTE specifically and pushed national security rhetoric to support their arguments.

“For a number of years, the federal government failed to effectively communicate the economic and national security risks of Huawei and ZTE communications equipment – and even adopted broadband grant policies that incentivized rural carriers to use this equipment because it was the cheapest around,” Warner said. “While we’ve made enormous progress in educating the private sector of the dangers these vendors pose, we haven’t put in place policies to help resource-strapped rural carriers address and eliminate those risks.”

“Future U.S. security and economic prosperity will depend on 5G technology. With so much at stake, our communications infrastructure must be protected from threats posed by foreign governments and companies like Huawei,” Cotton added. “Our bill will support 5G’s deployment in the United States while defending that technology from exploitation.”

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