House approves legislation providing $750 million to boost US 5G efforts

The House on Tuesday unanimously passed bipartisan legislation appropriating $750 million towards building out U.S. fifth generation, or 5G, network technology as a way to combat potential threats from foreign-made equipment. 

The USA Telecommunications Act, introduced in both the House and Senate earlier this year, would set aside the funds as part of a grant program overseen by the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The funds would be used to support the deployment and use of 5G networks in the United States. 

The bill would establish an advisory committee that would include the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other federal agencies as well as representatives from the public and private sectors to advise on the grant funding. A report on the current state of the 5G supply chain would also be required to be submitted within 180 days of the bill becoming law.  

The bill’s primary sponsors in the House are Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.), and Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.). 

Acting Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), vice chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.), and multiple other bipartisan senators introduced a Senate version in January. 

Pallone said on the House floor Tuesday that the bill was essential for “spurring a domestic market for network equipment, and that is something we desperately need.”

He pointed to concerns over Chinese telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE and the need to compete domestically against these groups, which the Trump administration has taken extensive steps against due to national security concerns. 

“We must support alternatives to companies like Huawei and ZTE,” Pallone said. “Today most network equipment is produced by a handful of companies that provide a soup to nut solution, locking our networks into one single vendor at a time. That makes it hard for new competitors to break into the market, and currently there are no American vendors for the network equipment that fuels our wireless economy.”

Walden also praised the passage of the bill, saying on the House floor that it would “help put the United States at the helm of network security, ensuring that communications providers have a secure, diverse, and competitive marketplace of trusted equipment suppliers for their next generation networks.”

“Congress needs to act, we need to do all we can to ensure the United States supports a capitalism of competition between trusted vendors, and today’s bill does just that,” Walden added. 

A previous bill sponsored by the same four bipartisan House sponsors that was signed into law by President Trump in March. The legislation bans U.S. companies from using federal funds to buy Huawei equipment, and also provided $1 billion to help small rural telecom groups rip out Huawei equipment and replace it.

Tags 5G Brett Guthrie Donald Trump Doris Matsui Frank Pallone Greg Walden Huawei Huawei Marco Rubio Mark Warner

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