TR Daily House Panel Explores Spectrum, Network Security Bills
Friday, September 27, 2019

House Panel Explores Spectrum, Network Security Bills

Members from both sides of the aisle, as well as witnesses from industry, the public interest sector, and academia, displayed general agreement today at a House communications and technology subcommittee legislative hearing to consider bills addressing spectrum allocation and network security.

In his opening statement, subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D., Pa.) spoke of his hopes for the benefits to be achieved from the six bills and one resolution under consideration.

HR 4462, the Studying How to Harness Airwave Resources Efficiently Act (SHARE Act), would require the National Telecommunications and Information Administration “to establish a spectrum-sharing strategy for federal agencies. It would also require the FCC to report to Congress on the feasibility of using existing spectrum-sharing technology on several specific spectrum bands,” he noted.

“My hope is that the SHARE Act can act as a bridge to future innovative sharing scenarios like we see in the CBRS band,” or citizens broadband radio service, Chairman Doyle said.

The FCC’s Wireless Telecommunications Bureau and Office of Engineering and Technology recently approved initial commercial deployment (ICD) of automated frequency coordinators, known as Spectrum Access Systems (SASs), operated by five entities (TR Daily, Sept. 16). That approval will allow initial deployment of general authorized access (GAA) spectrum in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS).

“Next we have HR 4461, the Network Security Information Sharing Act introduced by myself and my colleague, Congressman [Adam] Kinzinger [R., Ill.]. This legislation would establish an information-sharing program at the Department of Homeland to share the supply chain security risk information with the telecom industry. This legislation would help all providers, but most importantly small and rural providers that lack the resources and expertise to engage here in Washington with what has largely been closed door discussions related to the threat of untrusted equipment vendors. Our hope is that by creating a program with an inclusive mandate, that these providers will be more able in the future to avoid deploying technologies that are threat to their customers and the nation,” Chairman Doyle continued.

“After that we have HR 4459, the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act, introduced by Chairman Pallone ranking member Walden, which would require FCC to create a list of equipment and services that pose unacceptable risk to national security. It would authorize a fund to enable telecommunications carriers with unsafe equipment in their network to remove it and replace it with trusted equipment and services,” he said.

HR 2881, the Secure 5G and Beyond Act, introduced by Reps. [Abigail] Spanberger [D., Va.], [Tom] O’Halleran [D., Ariz.], [Susan] Brooks [R., Ind.], [Francis] Rooney [R., Fla.], and [Elissa] Slotkin [D., Mich.], would require the government to work with strategic allies to secure their 5G networks and ensure that U.S. 5G networks are secure and work with industry to guard against foreign political influence,” Chairman Doyle said.

He also noted the other bills under consideration: the Promoting United States Wireless Leadership Act (HR 4500) and the Eliminate From Regulators Opportunities to Nationalize The Internet in Every Respect Act (E-FRONTIER Act) (HR 2063), as well as a resolution expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that all stakeholders in the deployment of 5G communications infrastructure should carefully consider and adhere to the recommendations of the Prague Proposals (HRes 575).

In his opening statement, subcommittee ranking member Bob Latta (R., Ohio) said that he was “especially pleased” to work with Chairman Doyle on the SHARE Act.

Noting that several of the bills under consideration would address the issue network vulnerabilities, he said that although carriers “may want to do their part to protection national security, they may need help doing so.”

Rep. Latta noted that the FCC has proposed prohibiting Universal Service Fund support recipients from using “controversial equipment. As winners of the latest FCC Connect America Fund Phase II auction come to grips with the buildout requirements accompanying these funds, it is critical that we work in a bipartisan way to ensure that they can revisit how those conditions impact their winning bid in order to keep their equipment free from security vulnerabilities,” he said. “We do not want winners at [CAF] auctions to be put in the untenable position of not being able to meet buildout requirements now that their cost estimates have changed.”

In his opening statement, full Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. said, “I applaud the work of Chairman Doyle and Ranking Member Latta in introducing the SHARE Act. Their bill will cement the long-standing policy that our nation’s key agencies — the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Federal Communications Commission — remain responsible for spectrum policy. These expert agencies can act as impartial judges to balance the demands and interests of spectrum stakeholders such as the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, public safety, and commercial carriers.

“At our hearing in July, we heard that the management of federal government spectrum requires a strong central voice at NTIA. And I think the SHARE Act does a great deal to help NTIA meet the mission-critical needs of government agencies in a more efficient and modern way,” he added.

“The FCC, likewise, must remain in the driver’s seat when it comes to commercial spectrum. And for that reason, I am pleased the SHARE Act requires the FCC to look for ways to expand and improve the revolutionary spectrum sharing techniques being rolled out in the Citizen’s Broadband Radio Service,” Chairman Pallone added.

“When it comes to securing these networks from foreign adversaries, I want to thank Ranking Member Walden, and Representatives Matsui and Guthrie for partnering with me to introduce the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act. Our legislation will prohibit the spending of federal dollars on suspect communications equipment and services that undermine national security,” he continued. “Our bill also establishes a one-billion-dollar reimbursement program to help small carriers remove compromised equipment and replace it with secure alternatives.”

Chairman Pallone said, “As we have heard, much of the global supply chain for telecommunications equipment flows through China at one point or another. And Chinese industrial policies allow state-run manufacturers like Huawei to sell suspect equipment to American providers cheaper than nearly anyone else. Although many of the bigger carriers have avoided these threats, it still is a significant issue for smaller and more rural carriers who built their networks using suspect equipment.”

He added, “Communications networks are interconnected and that means that one weak link can harm the whole system. We must help smaller carriers remove suspect equipment for the good of the entire country. Representative Kinzinger and Chairman Doyle also have legislation on this point that would help the federal government better share supply chain risk information with the communications providers.”

Rep. Doris Matsui (D., Calif.) called for more to be done with respect to “smart spectrum policy for licensed and unlicensed 5G spectrum and beyond.” She added, “We must explore opportunities to auction the C band. My bill, the Win 5G Act strikes the right balance.” She also cited the SPECTRUM NOW Act she introduced with Rep. Brett Guthrie (R., Ky.), which she said “could provide a pathway to make an additional 100 MHz of spectrum available.”

In his opening statement, full committee ranking member Greg Walden (R., Ore.) said, “The bills before us today deliver on a commitment we began last Congress to have a bipartisan process to mitigate these threats, and secure this sector going forward. Moreover, I know Chairman Pallone and I agree that the Energy and Commerce Committee is singularly able to speak to these topics in the Congress. And with both sides working together with stakeholders ranging from industry to civil society we can do so successfully.”

Rep. Walden added, “I’ve seen how small broadband providers in my own state are trying to make a go of deploying broadband networks and stretching limited funds to ensure they connect the most constituents in some of the hardest to reach places. Many of these providers don’t have an army of consultants with the necessary security clearances to understand what vulnerabilities exist and how to inform their purchasing decisions. For those who receive Federal support to build out broadband networks in unserved areas — like many of the providers in my district — we cannot set them up for failure by requiring them to select the lowest cost equipment option, only then for Uncle Sam to later say, ‘well, not that lowest cost equipment.’”

He added that the Network Security Information Sharing Act “would facilitate exactly the type of information sharing needed by rural providers that have vulnerable equipment in their networks. This was the centerpiece of our bipartisan discussions last Congress, and I’m pleased to see this concept at today’s hearing.”

Rep. Walden continued, “H.R. 4459, the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act, which I am an original cosponsor of, would further address this problem by setting up a reimbursement program to ‘rip and replace’ vulnerable equipment from those networks. While we still have some details to work out on the way to markup, the program is modeled on the FCC’s so-far-successful broadcast incentive repack reimbursement program.”

He also raised the issue “of how Russia is seeking to influence our public discourse on the subject of deployment of next generation networks. … Just this past week my staff saw this card posted to a bulletin board by the Rayburn cafeteria – details are pretty scant who is behind this campaign that just lists a litany of issues why 5G is supposedly bad.”

In response to a question from Rep. Latta about sanitizing and reselling equipment, Witness Bobbie Stempfley, managing director–CERT Division of the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, said that it would be possible in some instances by replacing software or firmware.

Responding to a question from Rep. Jerry McNerney (D., Calif.) about the costs for small carriers, Harold Feld, senior vice president at Public Knowledge said, “I agree that the cost is a big. We need to make sure that security is affordable to everyone.”

John Nettles, president of Pine Belt Wireless, said that cost “absolutely depends on what we have to replace. The radio and core – that’s one area of magnitude. Just the core – that’s more manageable.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]

MainStory: FederalNews Congress FCC NTIA SpectrumAllocation Cybersecurity

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