Lawmakers reintroduce bill to fund 5G projects in 22 European countries
Written by Dave Nyczepir
House lawmakers have reintroduced legislation that would allow the federal agency responsible for funding private development projects abroad to fund 5G infrastructure development in 22 Central and Eastern European countries.
Under the Transatlantic Telecommunications Security Act, the US Development Finance Corporation would work with relevant agencies to improve the resilience of vulnerable telecommunications networks by providing upstream and downstream project support and replacing potentially compromised equipment.
The bill was first proposed towards the end of the last legislative session in December 2020, when it was referred to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, but was never taken up again. He is co-sponsored by Representative Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, and Representative Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.
The bill responds to China’s Belt and Road and 17 + 1 initiatives, which saw state-linked telecommunications companies Huawei and ZTE sell potentially compromised infrastructure in a region historically lacking since the Soviet era.
“The United States and our allies face increasing threats from state-linked companies in China as they seek to infiltrate and undermine democratic institutions,” said Representative Marcy Kaptur, D -Ohio, in a statement. “These companies pose a particularly serious risk as our European allies and partners work to build their 5G infrastructure.”
5G networks will continue to develop emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, which will make it “critical” for the security of European nations and the economies that they will be protected from “malicious” actors like China and Russia, added Kaptur.
The legislation supports the Three Sees initiative organized by 12 Central and Eastern European countries of the European Union to secure the telecommunications space, as well as Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and the countries of the Western Balkans wishing to join the EU.
If passed, the law would require the State Department to work with DFC and the U.S. Agency for Trade and Development to identify 5G projects worthy of funding. Eligible projects would enhance 5G networks with new hardware or software, ensure market transparency, avoid or replace potentially compromised equipment, and increase telecommunications integration in the target region.
Preference would be given to projects which attract investment from the private sector, international financial institutions, the home government or the European Commission; are available for funding through the Three Seas Initiative Investment Fund; are in countries belonging to this initiative, to NATO or with democratic tendencies; and advancing the economic interests of the United States.
The US president would have one year from promulgation to report on progress made on aid projects, including funding and contractual terms and the successful disposal of potentially compromised equipment.
In total, the countries included in the law are: Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.
Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., Called in November for an “alliance of the willing” between the United States and its allies in Europe, Japan, South Korea, India and Israel to pool resources and possibly fund 5G, AI, research and development in quantum computing and facial recognition. The current chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee has said Western companies can compete with Chinese companies.
“A lot of them are pretty good, but at the end of the day they’re not loyal to their shareholders,” Warner said at the time. “They are loyal to the Chinese Communist Party, which in my opinion makes them a threat to national security.”
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5G, Adam Kinzinger, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Central Europe, China, Eastern Europe, European Commission, European Union, Huawei, Marcy Kaptur, Mark Warner, NATO, Russia, State Department, US Development Finance Corporation ( DFC), US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), ZTE