U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today discussed his Network Security Trade Act, legislation that would make telecommunications security a key objective when negotiating future trade deals. Thune also discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed China’s lack of transparency, which underscores the need to make sure that countries around the world abandon 5G infrastructure made by companies beholden to the Chinese government. Huawei, a Chinese government-supported company, is currently one of the biggest suppliers of 5G equipment worldwide.
Click here or on the picture above to watch Thune’s speech.
Excerpt of Thune’s remarks below:
“Mr. President, a couple of weeks ago, I came down to the floor to talk about how coronavirus has highlighted the importance of strong internet networks.
“Despite the surge in internet traffic coronavirus has produced – with Americans using the internet for everything from work to school to family dinners – U.S. networks have held up tremendously well.
“Americans have been able to enjoy the same speed and streaming quality they typically enjoy – something that hasn’t happened in a lot of other countries.
“And that’s a direct result of the United States’ light-touch approach to internet regulation, which has encouraged American companies to invest in the latest communications infrastructure and new technologies to make more efficient use of spectrum.
“Our nation is currently preparing for the widespread adoption of the next generation of internet technology – 5G.
“We need to make sure that our 5G networks will be as strong as our current networks.
“But we still have some work to do to get to that point.
“I’ve frequently come down here to the floor to discuss that work – which includes paving the way for the widespread installation of the “small cells” necessary for 5G networks, enhancing the availability of the mid-band spectrum necessary for 5G deployment, and investing in a 5G workforce.
“But there’s also another aspect we need to think about when it comes to 5G, which is sometimes not talked about as much.
“And that is network security.
“With its incredible speed and connectivity, 5G will usher in a new era of innovation.
“Advances in medical care, the large-scale deployment of precision agriculture, safer transportation technologies … 5G will bring all of these things, and more.
“But like any new technology, 5G networks will present new risks and vulnerabilities.
“And because 5G will mean a vastly greater number of connected devices, the risks with 5G will be greater.
“That’s why an essential part of deploying 5G networks has to be looking at how we can mitigate security risks.
“We need to ensure that the component parts of our devices – and, critically, the component parts of telecommunications networks, like cell towers and the small cells that will be required for 5G – are secure.
“And a primary way to do that is by ensuring that 5G equipment comes from trusted vendors.
“Currently, one of the biggest suppliers of 5G equipment worldwide is a Chinese company – Huawei – which is supported by the Chinese government.
“China’s 2017 National Intelligence Law requires Chinese companies to support the Chinese government’s intelligence activities.
“And American security officials have raised concerns that much of Huawei’s equipment is built with “backdoors” giving the Chinese government access to global communications networks.
“Mr. President, I don’t need to tell anyone that we should be wary of China’s motives, and that China’s interests are frequently opposed to those of the United States.
“China’s handling of the coronavirus is a striking current example of the Chinese government prioritizing its own interests – or pride – over the public good.
“As a New York Times article noted in February, “The [Chinese] government’s initial handling of the epidemic allowed the virus to gain a tenacious hold. At critical moments, officials chose to put secrecy and order ahead of openly confronting the growing crisis to avoid public alarm and political embarrassment.”
“Whether it was driven by the hubris of the Communist Party, or merely the callous indifference the communist state has for the wellbeing of its own citizens, China was not transparent about the grave danger of COVID-19.
“It failed to release accurate information about the nature and spread of the virus.
“And it took active steps to make sure the truth did not get out in other ways.
“Whistleblowers were punished, dissenters were censored, and journalists were expelled.
“And despite the fact that its negligence undoubtedly contributed to the global spread of COVID-19, China still continues to be less than forthcoming about the virus.
“Unfortunately, this is run-of-the-mill governing in China, as we saw with the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s – and as we have seen in many other instances.
“And not content with its role in aggravating the spread of coronavirus, the Chinese Communist Party has also taken advantage of the pandemic to strip Hong Kong of its autonomy and freedom.
“China’s hope is that our nation is too preoccupied with this pandemic to notice its efforts to undermine what should be Hong Kong’s autonomy under the one state, two systems construct.
“But we have noticed.
“And as many of my colleagues and I have expressed, we stand with Hong Kong.
“And we must carefully consider an appropriate response – one that will rebuke the Communist Party of China, without negatively affecting the people of Hong Kong, their wellbeing, and their democratic aspirations.
“Mr. President, we didn’t need COVID-19 or China’s recent actions in Hong Kong to know that giving the Chinese government a backdoor into American communications networks is a bad idea.
“But it certainly underscores the need to make sure that 5G infrastructure is not made by companies beholden to the Chinese government.
“The United States has taken a number of steps to prevent equipment from Huawei and another suspect Chinese company, ZTE, from being used in U.S. communications networks.
“But these companies still pose a risk to the U.S.
“For starters, some U.S. broadband providers – often in rural areas – still have equipment from Huawei and ZTE in their communications networks.
“And a number of our allies and trade partners – entities with whom we regularly share information, including sensitive national security information – have used or are using technology from Huawei and ZTE.
“So what can we do?
“Well, an initiative is already underway to replace suspect telecommunications components in U.S. networks with hardware from trusted companies.
“In March, the president signed legislation developed by Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker – the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act – to help speed up this process.
“This legislation, which I co-sponsored, will help small telecommunications providers with the cost of replacing network components that pose a security risk.
“Also in March, I introduced legislation to help address the other part of the problem – the use of Huawei technology by our allies and trading partners.
“We regularly exchange information, including sensitive national security information, with our allies and trading partners, and this information can only be secure if networks on both ends are secure.
“That’s why the U.S. has called for other countries to reject telecommunications technology from Huawei and ZTE.
“A number of countries have committed to using trusted companies to build out their telecommunications networks.
“But other countries are still planning to make use of Huawei’s technology.
“My legislation, the Network Security Trade Act, would make telecommunications security a key objective when negotiating future trade deals.
“We should be using trade agreements to push for enhanced network security globally – which would benefit not only our country but every country with which we do business.
“We recently opened negotiations on a new trade deal with the United Kingdom, which has been using Huawei technology to build its 5G networks.
“I’m pleased that it now looks like the UK is reconsidering its use of Huawei components.
“I hope they’ll decide to reject this suspect technology.
“And I hope trade negotiators will emphasize the importance of using trusted companies to build out the UK’s telecommunications networks.
“The security of our communications with our trading partners and allies – particularly close allies like Britain – needs to be a priority.
“Mr. President, as we move forward into the 5G future, we need to make sure that our technological advancements are matched with advancements in network security.
“And that starts with keeping Huawei and other suspect technology out of our networks – and, if at all possible, out of the networks of our allies.
“I will continue to do everything I can to ensure that we have not only the infrastructure but the security needed to keep American networks at the forefront of the telecommunications revolution.
“Mr. President, before I close, let me just say one more word about China.
“As I said earlier, China’s coronavirus deception is undoubtedly partly responsible for the fact that this virus has now spread to every corner of the world.
“And China’s recent actions with regard to Hong Kong underscore the hostility of the Chinese government to the values freedom-loving countries hold dear.
“China has a lot of work to do if it ever hopes to rebuild trust with other nations.
“At a bare minimum, we expect China to uphold its recent trade commitments, which are critical to America’s hard-hit farmers and ranchers.
“I will be looking – and our entire government will be looking – to see if China’s word on trade agreements can be relied on.
“I hope the Chinese government will live up to its commitments.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”