House United on Need for 5G Security

The security of 5G networks has been much on the mind of Washington this week, including a bipartisan cadre of House Energy & Commerce Committee members.

In a letter to FCC chairman Ajit Pai, the chairs and ranking members of the principal oversight committees urged the commission to "closely examine the security of fifth-generation (5G) infrastructure and technology as part of the newly rechartered Communications Security, Reliability and Operability Council (CSRIC), CRSRIC VII."

They told Pai the FCC was well positioned to help secure the 5G supply chain of equipment and software, something it is already trying to do under Pai.

Given the 5G infrastructure buildout on the horizon--the FCC is freeing up spectrum in three auctions this year and at least one next year and the White House has said being first to 5G is a national, and national security, priority--the legislators want to make sure security is top of mind, and any necessary rules to insure that should be clear.

They did not cite the current issues with China Mobile, ZTE and Huawei. Pai and the FCC are currently dealing with, talking about the issue in broader terms.

"American intelligence and defense agencies have expressed concern that companies controlled by foreign governments are increasingly manufacturing critical equipment in our nation’s communications infrastructure, and that those companies could have an incentive, or even an obligation, to use their network equipment to engage in espionage against U.S. interests and national security," they said.

The FCC Thursday (May 9) is voting on Pai's proposal to deny China Mobile's petition to connect to U.S. networks, a denial the Trump Administration had advised. The FCC has also proposed banning companies with Huawei tech from its Universal Service fund broadband subsidies.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also warned Britain this week that if it goes ahead with plans to use Huawei tech in its networks, the U.S. may not be able to share intelligence information for fear it will not be secure.

Huawei has made plenty of inroads into network architectures given a decrease in suppliers and its relatively low price points, one reason there has been some concern about how to weed it out of broadband subsidy programs.

Signing on to the letter were House Energy & Commerce Committee chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Communications Subcommittee chairman Mike Doyle and ranking member Bob Latta (D-Ohio).

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.