Huawei or the highway?
As that question divides the U.S. and U.K. intelligence communities, Sen. Mark Warner, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has a solution to wean the United States from reliance on the Chinese telecom giant.
The issue is whether Western governments can use Huawei’s technology to build their 5G networks, which will vastly expanded broadband capacity., without compromising security. Critics say Huawei is too beholden to the Chinese government to be trusted and that its technology could be used to spy on China’s enemies, adversaries, and rivals. Huawei, which obtained more patents than any other country in the world in 2018, says it can be trusted.
The U.S. intelligence community says “No, thanks,” The British intelligence community says, “Don’t mind, if I do.’ Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided last week that the British government will allow Huawei technology is some parts of their expanded digital networks.
Warner, a former tech company executive, says the United States need to fund alternatives to Huawei.
He sees his new 5G legislation to combat Huawei—known in the always-acronymized style of Capitol Hill as the Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act—as a step on that path. The proposed bill also comes with the backing of Republican senators Rubio, Bob Menendez, and John Cornyn (plus Colorado’s moderate Democrat Michael Bennett), all of whom serve on the body’s intelligence or foreign relations committees. It attempts to counter Huawei’s perceived lead on 5G by earmarking at least a $1 billion in investments in Western alternatives and encouraging the development of an open-architecture model to allow companies to bite off smaller pieces of the 5G network.
Not even the heated, partisan impeachment trial can distract Warner from raising the alarm: The day after Chief Justice John Roberts swore Warner and 98 other senators in as jurors, Warner again took to the airwaves to push his effort to confront China’s technological advances. His message was clear: “5G and the issue of Huawei has been over the last year been a bipartisan issue,” he told Bloomberg TV in the rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building. “This is one area where there are a lot of us who are in agreement with the administration.”