A bill introduced by three senior senators would require the White House to develop a strategy to ensure the security of 5G wireless systems and infrastructure, but would also block the executive branch from recommending that 5G or subsequent generations of mobile communications infrastructure be “nationalized” by the government – a possibility that has been floated in recent weeks by an official connected with the Trump campaign organization.

The bill, dubbed the “Secure 5G and Beyond Act,” was introduced by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Mark Warner, D-Va., vice chairman and ranking member of the committee. Text of the bill has not yet been released.

In a statement, the senators said the measure “would require the President to develop a strategy to ensure the security of next-gen mobile telecommunications systems and infrastructure in the United States, as well as to assist allies in maximizing the security of their systems, infrastructure, and software.”

The bill would require the President to create an “inter-agency strategy” to secure the technology, and would designate the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)–a component of the Commerce Department–to coordinate implementation of the strategy with the heads of the Federal Communications Commission, Department of Homeland Security, Director of National Intelligence, Justice Department, and Defense Department.

And, the senators said, the bill would ensure “that the strategy does not include a recommendation to nationalize 5th generation deployment or future generations of mobile telecommunications infrastructure in the United States.”

That last point appears to relate to a statement from the President’s campaign earlier this month suggesting support for a “wholesale” 5G network involving the Federal government making necessary spectrum available for sharing by wireless carriers, with a goal of reducing service costs and providing service to more Americans.  The campaign later appeared to back away from the suggestion, with a spokesperson saying there was “no daylight” between President Trump and his campaign organization.

In announcing the legislation, Sen. Cornyn said, “Our telecom systems continue to advance at a rapid rate, and it’s critical that we develop a strategy to protect potential vulnerabilities from being exploited by our adversaries.”

Said Sen. Burr, “It’s imperative we not only understand the revolutionary value of next-gen communications, but also the security measures required to ensure the deployment of safe and secure 5G networks.”

“5G promises to usher in a new wave of innovations, products, and services. At the same time, the greater complexity, density, and speed of 5G networks relative to traditional communications networks will make securing these networks exponentially harder and more complex,” Sen. Warner said. “It’s imperative that we have a coherent strategy, led by the President, to harness the advantages of 5G in a way that understands–and addresses–the risks,” he added.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.