U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today discussed the security measures that need to be taken to ensure that 5G infrastructure is deployed and used in a secure manner. There are inherent risks with any technology, but because 5G will mean a greater number of connected devices, the risks are even higher. This morning, Thune introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure U.S. communications infrastructure security is a clear negotiating objective of our country’s trade policy.
Click here to watch Thune’s speech.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, I’m pleased that Republicans and Democrats in both chambers have quickly come together to provide emergency funding to combat the coronavirus.
“And I look forward to voting this afternoon to send this important funding measure to the president’s desk.
“Mr. President, our nation is poised for widespread deployment of the next generation of internet technology – 5G.
“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.
“Yesterday, the Senate Commerce Committee – of which I am a member – held a hearing on supply chain risks for 5G.
“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.
“That means 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.
“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.
“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.
“Yesterday’s Commerce Committee hearing focused on both of these issues.
“We discussed so-called “rip and replace” – an initiative already underway to replace suspect telecommunications components with hardware from trusted companies.
“Last week, the Senate unanimously passed the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act, which is now with the president.
“This legislation will help small telecommunications providers with the cost of replacing network components that pose a security risk.
“I co-sponsored this legislation, which was developed by Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker.
“Mr. President, cost is a major obstacle for small broadband providers when it comes to replacing telecommunications hardware.
“But as one expert witness at the hearing noted, a lack of qualified telecommunications workers also poses a barrier to replacement.
“I recently introduced legislation – the Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Act – to help increase the number of workers on the front lines of replacing this equipment and deploying new secure 5G networks.
“I hope this legislation will quickly make its way through the Senate.
“Mr. President, replacing problematic hardware in our domestic telecommunications networks will help ensure the security of our communications for years to come.
“But as I said earlier, that’s not the only challenge we’re facing.
“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.
“But while some countries have committed to using trusted companies to build out their telecommunications networks, other countries are still planning to make use of Huawei’s technology.
“That’s why I’m introducing legislation today to make telecommunications security a key objective when negotiating future trade deals.
“This legislation is critical as the United States begins formal trade talks with the United Kingdom and other allies.
“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.
“As one witness noted at yesterday’s hearing, this legislation “is long overdue,” and I could not agree more.
“Mr. President, over the past few years we’ve talked a lot about the importance of having the United States win the global race to 5G.
“There are important reasons for that.
“For starters, having the United States at the forefront of 5G technology will mean big benefits for our economy and for American workers.
“But there are also important security reasons to have the United States at the head of the 5G revolution.
“If we lead the world in implementing 5G, we will have the chance to set standards for 5G deployment – including, most importantly, network security standards.
“It is no exaggeration to say that having the chance to set worldwide standards for 5G is critical to our national security.
“Our telecommunications networks already play a huge role in our national security, and that role will only grow as we fully adopt 5G technology.
“We need to ensure that U.S. networks are as secure as it is possible for them to be.
“Mr. President, I appreciated the witnesses who took the time to address the Commerce Committee yesterday.
“There is no better way to learn what needs to be done for 5G security than to hear from the people on the ground who spend every day managing network security issues.
“I look forward to continuing to work with all of my colleagues in the Senate to advance telecommunications security and ensure that the United States is fully prepared for the 5G future.”