Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and John Thune, R-S.D., have introduced a bill to create a new council that would oversee Federal investments and policy development of next-generation communications technology including sixth-generation – or 6G – wireless tech.

The Next Generation Telecommunications Act also would aim to support U.S. competitiveness in innovation and technology, and ensure that the U.S. remains a leader in telecommunication technology and broadband.

“We’ve got to promote American competitiveness in these kinds of cutting-edge technologies that we’re building in Nevada,” Sen. Cortez Masto said in a statement. “That means improving access to quality broadband, ensuring we have the necessary workforce, and putting in safeguards to make sure we protect emerging technologies.”

The Next Generation Telecommunications Council created by the legislation would advise Congress on development of 6G and other wireless communications technologies. The council also would develop a national telecom strategy, including expanding the U.S. global leadership in broadband, expanding the telecom sector workforce, and ensuring that telecommunication networks are resilient and secure.

Designated members of the council would include the deputy secretary of Commerce, the assistant secretary of Commerce for communications and information, the undersecretary of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the chair of the Federal Communications Commission, the director of the National Science Foundation, and three members appointed by the Senate, among others.

“Ensuring the [U.S.] remains a leader in next-generation communications has long been a priority of mine. This bill would allow the [U.S.] to continue competing on the global stage, and it would help prepare the [country] to lead the way in deploying next-generation technology, including 6G,” Sen. Thune said.

In addition to 6G advancements, council members would also work to deploy better 5G wireless infrastructure, advise Congress on remediating connectivity gaps in some parts of the country, and work to safeguard current and future telecommunication services.

Introduction of the Next Generation Telecommunications Act adds to a busy legislative and policy agenda in the communications services area. In March 2020, the White House released the National Strategy to Secure 5G of the United States to formally frame how the nation will safeguard 5G wireless infrastructure at home and abroad. Infrastructure legislation currently working its way through Congress features $65 billion for broadband expansion.

“I am proud to support this bipartisan legislation… that will ensure that low-income and rural families have access to cutting-edge telecommunications technology,” said Senate Majority Leader Schumer. “As the race to 5G continues… with the Next Generation Telecommunications Act, we are making sure that the U.S is the lead innovator of high-speed internet technologies.”

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.