A bipartisan bill to develop a next-generation mobile communications strategy cleared the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (E&C) via a voice vote on Nov. 20.

The legislation – dubbed the Secure 5G and Beyond Act of 2019 – would direct the President to develop the “Secure Next Generation Mobile Communications Strategy” in partnership with the Federal Communications Commission, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Department of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and Secretary of Defense.

The bill was introduced by Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., Francis Rooney, D-Fla., Tom O’Halleran, D-Ariz., and Susan Brooks, R-Ind., on May 21.

When the bill was introduced, its sponsors cited a 2018 North Atlantic Treaty Organization report which found that “Huawei’s growing influence as a leading supplier of 5G technology could be exploited by China to engage in espionage, monitor foreign corporations and governments, and support Chinese military operations.”

“The United States has long been responsible for the groundbreaking achievements of the digital age. However, the growing prominence of 5G telecommunications systems in China and abroad, particularly through Huawei, should concern all Americans,” said Rep. Spanberger.

“To protect our national security and maintain our economic strength, we must build a nationwide gameplan to strengthen our mobile networks and protect the privacy of American families,” she said “As we work to achieve faster internet speeds and wider connectivity, our legislation would make sure we have a plan to deliver innovative technology to U.S. consumers, compete with China, and prevent foreign influence in 5G networks.”

The bill’s authors said that in order to combat that threat, the government needs to develop an “unclassified, national strategy to protect U.S. consumers and assist allies in maximizing the security of their 5G telecommunications systems.” That strategy, they said, would also need to “identify additional ways to spur research and development by U.S. companies in a way that maintains access for all Americans.”

The Secure 5G and Beyond Act would require the White House to develop an interagency strategy to:

  • “Secure 5th generation and future-generation telecommunications systems and infrastructure across the United States;
  • Assist U.S. allies and defense partners in maximizing the security of 5G systems and infrastructure in their countries; and
  • Protect the competitiveness of U.S. companies, the privacy of U.S. consumers, and the integrity of international standards-setting bodies against foreign political influence.”

The Secure 5G and Beyond Act has a Senate companion bill, which was introduced by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Mark Warner, D-Va., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., on March 27.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.