House panel advances slate of cybersecurity bills

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said eight new bills will bring the United States "one step closer to a safer and more secure wireless future."

US Congress House side Shutterstock photo ID: 156615524 By mdgn editorial use only

Lawmakers hailed a suite of cybersecurity bills approved by a House committee this week as "urgently needed legislation" meant to address vulnerabilities in networks and supply chains, while educating Americans on cybersecurity best practices.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced eight bipartisan bills which focus in part on the cybersecurity of mobile service networks and prohibit equipment authorization for Chinese state-backed companies like Huawei and ZTE.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chairman of the energy and commerce committee, said in a statement the bills "will promote more secure networks and supply chains, bringing us one step closer to a safer and more secure wireless future."

The Understanding Cybersecurity of Mobile Networks Act calls for a congressional report on cybersecurity of mobile service networks, examining the susceptibility of those networks and mobile devices to surveillance or attacks in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security.

Another measure, titled the Secure Equipment Act of 2021, prohibits equipment authorization for firms whose products are included in the FCC's list of covered communications equipment or services. That bill, introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), included specific measures to ensure the rules were not applied retroactively.

The bills would also reform ongoing cyber initiatives within the FCC and NTIA while codifying existing advisory councils, as well as develop a whole-of-government approach to ensuring competitiveness among U.S. trusted vendors.

While some of the bills focused on the more technical aspects of cybersecurity, like the Future Uses of Technology Upholding Reliable and Enhanced (FUTURE) Networks Act, which orders the FCC to establish a 6G Task Force, others featured more aspirational goals to inform the public on improving cyber posture.

A bill introduced by several Democratic and Republican committee members, titled the American Cybersecurity Literacy Act, calls on the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to launch an educational campaign for U.S. citizens around cybersecurity risks and best practices.

The entire suite of legislation received significant bipartisan support from committee members like Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), who said during a markup hearing on Wednesday: "Today is a good example of what we can accomplish when we work together."