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June 04, 2020

King Cosponsors Bipartisan Legislation to Develop 5G Alternatives to Huawei and ZTE

“Our cellular networks are critical infrastructure, and we can’t outsource that responsibility to a dubious global entities”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC), announced his cosponsorship of the Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act, bipartisan legislation aimed to encourage and support U.S. innovation in the race for 5G, through significant investments in technological alternatives to the security risks posed by Huawei and ZTE. The bill would reassert U.S. and Western leadership by encouraging competition that capitalizes on US. software advantages, accelerating development of an open-architecture model (known as O-RAN) that would allow for alternative vendors to enter the market for specific network components, rather than having to compete with Huawei end-to-end. 

“As we are seeing in this pandemic, America is asymmetrically cyber-connected compared to our rivals – but that also makes us asymmetrically vulnerable – we simply must ensure our networks are completely protected, and encourage U.S. competition with international providers,” said Senator King. “With the vast majority of our critical infrastructure owned and operated by the private sector – this bipartisan effort would help facilitate collaboration between our government and private sector to create 5G alternatives to Huawei and ZTE and lessen U.S. and international reliance on Chinese telecommunication companies. Our cellular networks are critical infrastructure, and we can’t outsource that responsibility to dubious global entities.”

 Heavily subsidized by the Chinese government, Huawei is poised to become the leading commercial provider of 5G, with far-reaching effects for U.S. economic and national security, and that of our allies and partners – leading Senator King to make the statement in an Intelligence Committee hearing “Huawei can either be a global telecommunications provider, or an agent of the Chinese state – they can’t be both.”  With close ties to the Communist Party of China, Chinese state-directed technology companies present unacceptable risks to our national security and to the integrity of information networks globally. However, U.S. efforts to convince foreign partners to ban Huawei from their networks have stalled amid concerns about a lack of viable, affordable alternatives. 

The Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act would:

·       Require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to direct at least $750 million, or up to 5 percent of annual auction proceeds, 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 managed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), with input from the FCC, Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), among others;

·       Create a $500 million Multilateral Telecommunications Security Fund, working with our foreign partners, available for 10 years 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;

·       Create a transition plan for the purchase of new equipment by carriers that will be forward-compatible with forthcoming O-RAN equipment so small and rural carriers are not left behind;

·       Increase U.S. leadership in International Standards Setting Bodies (ISSBs) by encouraging greater U.S. participation in global and regional telecommunications standards forums and requiring the FCC write a report to Congress with specific recommendations;

·       Expand market opportunities for suppliers and promote economies of scale for equipment and devices by encouraging the FCC to harmonize new commercial spectrum allocations with partners where possible, thus promoting greater alignment with allies and driving down the cost of Huawei alternatives. 

As co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission and a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Armed Services Committee, Senator King has been outspoken about international security threats to the U.S. government and critical information technology infrastructure.

Last month, Senator King joined a bipartisan, bicameral group effort to encrypt phone calls between the House of Representatives and the Senate to protect communications against foreign surveillance. He also joined CSC commissioners to testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs and present the CSC’s recommendations to establish a comprehensive, forward-looking security strategy and posture for the United States. Senator King has consistently raised the alarm about the threat that Huawei and ZTE post to U.S. national security. In July, the Securing Energy Infrastructure Act – led by Senators King and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) – a bill to protect the nation’s energy grid from potential cyberattacks became law. In December, Senator King led a bipartisan group of senators on a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) emphasizing the dangers of incorporating equipment manufactured by Huawei into the nation’s critical infrastructure. Last year, Senator King sent a letter to the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) requesting information about NERC’s efforts to protect the United States’ bulk power system from supply chain vulnerabilities, particularly those posed by vendors from Russia and China. In February 2019, Senator King emphasized the need for urgent action, and questioned NERC President and CEO James Robb about the dangers of foreign equipment in America’s energy grid. Later that month, he urged the Administration to protect U.S. electrical systems and infrastructure from potential cyberattacks by banning the use of inverters made by Huawei.


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