Senate Passes 5G Tech-Promoting Bill

5g artistic rendering
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Senate has passed the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) (formerly the Endless Frontier Act), which, among many other things, attempts to diversify and better secure the 5G supply chain by backing alternatives to Chinese tech suppliers Huawei and ZTE. It now heads to the House.

Among those other things would be investment in the telecommunications workforce, improve STEM education, and promote agency coordination on R&D.

Passage was greeted by bipartisan cheers, though with some caveats.

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“Over the past three months, I have heard from dozens of stakeholders at every level of the semiconductor supply chain and customer base that we need smart, strategic investments to shore up our domestic supply chain and bolster U.S. leadership — and we need them now," said Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo. "Today, the Senate took a critical bipartisan step forward to make the investments we need to continue America’s legacy as a global leader in innovation. I applaud the Senators from both parties who came together to get this done. This funding isn’t just about addressing the current semiconductor chip shortage, it is about long-term investments in semiconductor manufacturing and research and development to enhance our economic and national security, strengthen American competitiveness and create good-paying jobs. I urge the House to take up this critical legislation as quickly as possible.”

“America is at our best when we are innovating, competing and exploring,” said Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). “Today’s Senate vote is a major step towards building the R&D capacity we need to seize the promise of an Information Age. This bipartisan vote is a huge boost to our innovation ecosystem that will help us keep pace with our competitors.”

"America’s innovation in semiconductors undergirds our entire innovation economy. A wide array of products – from planes and automobiles to household appliances and small ‘smart’ devices – rely on these chips, and demand is only growing. But for too long, the U.S. has allowed competitors like China to out-invest us. No more," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who backed the 5G provision. 

"This bill makes a major, $52 billion investment in domestic semiconductor manufacturing, which will create good-paying jobs in America while maintaining our global innovation edge,” said Warner. “I am encouraged that this bill passed the Senate today on a broadly bipartisan basis, and strongly encourage our colleagues in the House to take it up and send it to the President’s desk without delay.”

“We are encouraged that the Senate has made U.S. competitiveness and technological innovation a priority with an emphasis on AI and other emerging and critical technologiesm," said Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) VP Arthur Sidney. "However, late amendments to this critical bill may prove unworkable or counterproductive for U.S. industry. Thus, we welcome the opportunity to work with the House to improve this legislation and refocus it to help American innovation flourish."

"To remain competitive on the international stage, the United States must prioritize and continue to expand its investments in research, development, and technological advancement," said ITI President Jason Oxman. "The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act takes important steps to expand U.S. innovation leadership, including key measures to help build a strong ecosystem for developing advanced technologies and creating new jobs in communities across the country. We are pleased that the bill, in particular, provides robust funding for the CHIPS for America Act to boost domestic semiconductor production, which is essential for our economic and national security..."

“The U.S. Innovation and Competition Act would help position the United States a step ahead of China in science and technology,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), ranking member of Commerce Committee. “The legislation includes numerous bills and amendments that I sponsored to ensure all areas of the country receive a fair opportunity to participate in federally funded R&D and to protect American research and intellectual property from foreign theft.”

"This important legislation will support U.S. ingenuity for years to come, including new wireless network technologies that DISH is eager to bring to life for the American people," said Jeff Blum, EVP of external and legislative affairs at DISH. "The critical funding to promote and deploy Open RAN innovation from Senator Warner and Senator Rubio’s USA Telecommunications Act will spur American job creation, diversify the telecom equipment supply chain, enhance network security and boost our nation’s efforts to lead the global race to 5G (and beyond).

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.