U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is pushing on Capitol Hill for Western alternatives to Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE in order to develop 5G communications.
Rubio paired up with U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Col., Richard Burr, R-NC, John Cornyn, R-Texas, Bob Menendez, D-NJ and Mark Warner, D-Va., to introduce the “Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act” a bill offering more than “$1 billion to invest in Western-based alternatives to Chinese equipment providers Huawei and ZTE, malign state-directed telecommunications companies that pose a clear and growing threat to the economic and national security of the U.S. and our allies.”
Rubio’s office offered some of the rationale for opposing companies with ties to the Chinese regime.
“Heavily subsidized by China’s government and the Chinese Communist Party, Huawei is poised to become the leading commercial provider of 5G, which will have far-reaching effects for U.S. economic and national security. Chinese state-directed technology companies such as Huawei and ZTE present unacceptable risks to our national security interests and to the integrity of information networks globally. However, U.S. efforts to convince foreign partners to ban Huawei from their networks are encumbered by a lack of viable, affordable alternatives,” Rubio’s office insisted.
The bill “would reassert U.S. and allied leadership by encouraging competition with Huawei” and “will capitalize on U.S. software advantages, accelerating the development of an open-architecture model (known as O-RAN) that would allow for American innovators to enter the market for specific network components, rather than having to compete with Huawei end-to-end.”
Rubio weighed in on the proposal on Tuesday.
“We are at a critical point in history for defining the future of the U.S.-China relationship in the 21st century, and we cannot allow Chinese state-directed telecommunications companies to surpass American competitors,” Rubio said. “It is not only in our national security interests to support American competition in the 5G market, but it is also in our economic interests to continue to build and support an economy that leverages American strengths and creates American jobs in the industries of the future without relying on malign Chinese state-directed actors like Huawei and ZTE.”
“Every month that the U.S. does nothing, Huawei stands poised to become the cheapest, fastest, most ubiquitous global provider of 5G, while U.S. and Western companies and workers lose out on market share and jobs. Widespread adoption of 5G technology has the potential to unleash sweeping effects for the future of internet-connected devices, individual data security, and national security. It is imperative that Congress address the complex security and competitiveness challenges that Chinese-directed telecommunication companies pose,” Warner said. “We need to move beyond observing the problem to providing alternatives for U.S. and foreign network operators.”
“When it comes to 5G technology, the decisions we make today will be felt for decades to come. The widespread adoption of 5G has the potential to transform the way we do business, but also carries significant national security risks. Those risks could prove disastrous if Huawei, a company that operates at the behest of the Chinese government, military, and intelligence services, is allowed to take over the 5G market unchecked. This legislation will help maintain America’s competitive advantage and protect our national security by encouraging Western competitors to develop innovative, affordable, and secure 5G alternatives,” Burr said.
“The Trump administration’s lecturing of our allies about the dangers of relying on the Chinese for 5G is no replacement for the development of 5G alternatives,” Menendez said. “This bill, which will supply the U.S. government with resources to help the private sector create viable 5G alternatives from all ends of the supply chain, is a long overdue step in the right direction. As I’ve said over and over again, confronting China is not the same as being competitive with China. It is time we do just that.”
“We should not accept a world that is forced to rely on Chinese telecommunication companies to unlock the benefits of 5G and next generation wireless technologies,” Bennet said. “It is imperative for America’s competitiveness and security that we develop alternatives for U.S. and foreign network operators. This $1 billion investment will send a strong, bipartisan signal that the United States is committed to developing viable, secure, and cutting-edge alternatives to China’s 5G technology while eliminating dependence on technology that poses real security threats.”
“5G technology presents a host of opportunities to transform American telecommunications,” Cornyn said. “By helping to spur innovations in 5G, we can inoculate ourselves against the threat posed by China and encourage the development of technology that is secure, affordable, and economically beneficial to our allies.”
The proposal would have the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) direct at least $750 million, all from new auctioned spectrum licenses, to create an O-RAN R&D Fund to “spur movement towards open-architecture, software-based wireless technologies, funding innovative, ‘leap-ahead’ technologies in the U.S. mobile broadband market.” The fund would be overseen by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with the FCC, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) offering input. The bill would also create a $500 million Multilateral Telecommunications Security Fund “ to accelerate the adoption of trusted and secure equipment globally and to encourage multilateral participation, and require reports for Congress on use of proceeds and progress against goals to ensure ample oversight.”
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.