WASHINGTON, DC – Last week, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) joined the White House summit on 5G alongside congressional and federal leaders to deliver remarks on the RAY BAUM’S Act and efforts to secure U.S. leadership in this space.
The committee-led RAY BAUM’S Act was signed into law earlier this year, and was the first reauthorization of the Federal Communications Commission in over two decades. The bipartisan legislation included provisions to spur the deployment of 5G networks and support broadband infrastructure buildout. It is named for former Energy and Commerce Committee Staff Director Ray Baum, longtime friend and telecommunication advisor to Chairman Walden, who lost his battle with cancer in February 2018.
Chairman Walden’s remarks as prepared for delivery are included below.
“I applaud the President’s leadership in convening today’s summit, which unites the White House, federal agencies, Congress, and the private sector in our shared goal to ensure the U.S. leads the world in communications technology.
Let there be no mistake, the race to 5G is a sprint – not a marathon. Even as we speak, competitors in Asia and Europe are running full speed ahead to be the global leader. To stay ahead, we need to think strategically about three issues that shape the ground we’re running on: infrastructure deployment, spectrum availability, and supply chain risks.
That’s why I’ve led the Energy and Commerce Committee in all three of these areas, working to pave the way forward for 5G.
Earlier this year, we passed, and President Trump signed into law, the RAY BAUM’S Act. Named for my dear friend of 30 years and longtime telecom advisor, this legislation was not only this the first reauthorization of the FCC in over two decades, it included critical provisions to support broadband deployment by updating and streamlining applications for broadband facilities on federal property, and establishing a shot clock by which federal agencies must grant or deny those applications. We lost Ray to cancer earlier this year, but I know he would be very proud of all that we’ve accomplished with his namesake legislation.
What it really comes down to is pushing aside the obstacles that make broadband deployment difficult and clearing the way for investment and innovation. Industry is not asking the government for money to build 5G networks; they’re asking us to cut red tape around infrastructure siting. The red tape slows, and sometimes stops, the building of a densified network necessary for 5G. RAY BAUM’S Act is about putting consumers first and facilitating the development and deployment of 5G networks in the United States.
Under Chairman Pai’s leadership, the FCC’s has made great strides on infrastructure streamlining as well, and it’s essential we reconcile taxes, fees, and permitting policies to maximize the benefits of private investment.
And with our old chief counsel of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, David Redl at the helm, I’m confident NTIA, with the FCC and Rural Utilities Service coordinating, will make great strides to ensure efficient federal spectrum use, expand broadband internet access to all, and secure Americans’ communications networks.
Realizing the promise of 5G will require an adequate mix low-, mid-, and high-band spectrum. The United States led the world in making low-band spectrum available, and we are currently leading the way on high-band spectrum with an auction scheduled for November.
However, the crucial ingredient for 5G is mid-band spectrum that combines capacity and coverage. Mid-band is the most challenging because it’s congested with federal users. There’s too much at stake, however, to allow federal users to sit inefficiently on spectrum when other countries are freeing up their mid-band resources.
While some federal users may be reluctant to vacate mid-band spectrum, we must bear in mind the national security implications of winning the race to 5G.
It’s critical we continue to focus on mitigating risks to the global supply chain of communications equipment and services. There have been alarm bells at all levels of government about potential risks to the supply chain. But some of the proposed solutions can be just as alarming.
There are some who think we can simply ban vendors from American markets. But the marketplace for hardware and software is global. Without a forward-looking strategy, it will be increasingly difficult for our domestic communications providers to obtain their equipment from trusted vendors.
I’m pleased to report the Energy and Commerce Committee is working toward a bipartisan, long-term solution on supply chain risks. If America is going to win the global race to 5G, then we need to get our supply chain solutions right.
As I mentioned earlier, my background is in radio. My wife and I owned and operated our own radio station in Oregon for many years. I’m pretty sure I’m the only member of Congress who has ever had to wire in a transmitter! But it has been remarkable to witness the acceleration of change and advancement in technology over the past decade. And just think about where we’re going. 5G means wireless broadband travels 10-to-100 times faster than existing networks. For consumers, that means faster and more advanced smartphones, more connected Internet of Things devices like smart thermostats and home assistants, and – eventually – self-driving cars. (If the Senate can get their act together to pass our bipartisan bill creating the first federal framework for self-driving cars in America!)
The benefits of 5G will go well beyond consumer technology, too. For doctors and patients, 5G will enable the low latency, reliability, and speed necessary for remote surgery. This is something I hear about from health care providers back in my rural Oregon district all the time.
Winning the global race to 5G is a national priority, and a priority of mine as Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman. If we are going to win, we need to think creatively and strategically about infrastructure deployment, spectrum availability, and the supply chain. We have made excellent progress so far, and if we continue to do so, then I’m confident we’ll win.
Again, I applaud the president’s leadership in convening this summit, and I want everyone to know that the Energy & Commerce Committee is a partner in this race. Thank you.”