All five commissioners for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) came out Monday against the idea of the federal government building out technical networks for the next generation of wireless technology simply known as 5G.
“I oppose any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, said in a statement. “The main lesson to draw from the wireless sector’s development over the past three decades—including American leadership in 4G—is that the market, not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment.”
“A network built by the federal government, I fear, does not leverage the best approach needed for our nation to win the 5G race,” said FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, a Democrat. “The United States’ leadership in the deployment of 5G is critical and must be done right. Localities have a central role to play; the technical expertise possessed by industry should be utilized; and cybersecurity must be a core consideration.”
The comments are in response to an Axios report that alleges the Trump administration is considering nationalizing a 5G network rollout. There are no apparent indicators on the obtained documents that show it’s from the National Security Council, which Axios reports.
A former higher-up for the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (part of the U.S. Department of Commerce) reportedly said that the records evoke mediocrity or lack signs of serious official consideration.
— Ashkhen Kazaryan (@Ashkhen) January 29, 2018
Nevertheless, the commissioners felt the need to publicly speak out on the issue of 5G, which will be — if it isn’t already so — the next biggest thing in the economy and perhaps society.
“Consumers in the U.S. have benefited from the deployment of world-leading 4G networks precisely because we got the government out of the way,” said Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr. “Any suggestion that the federal government should build and operate a nationwide 5G network is a non-starter.”
“I’ve seen lead balloons tried in D.C. before but this is like a balloon made out of a Ford Pinto,” Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, a Republican, said in a statement, referring to the infamous disaster vehicle from decades ago. “If accurate, the Axios story suggests options that may be under consideration by the Administration that are nonsensical and do not recognize the current marketplace.”
Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel also came out in opposition to the purported plan, showcasing oft-elusive solidarity in the federal agency.
Organizations and think tanks of several types voiced their agreement with Chairman Pai and the rest of the Commission, even alluding to historical examples.
“The U.S. should not make the same mistake as Australia, whose bungled attempt at building a nationalized wholesale network turned that country into a broadband backwater,” Fred Campbell, director of Tech Knowledge, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “More than a century of experience has proven that government-operated networks don’t work.”
Officials within the Trump administration have allegedly told Recode that the aforementioned documents acquired by Axios are outdated, and were merely introduced by a lower level staff member, and thus not a true sign of imminent policy.
TheDCNF still awaits White House comment for further details, but Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a press briefing Monday that it is far too early in the process to elaborate on any specific or overarching plan.
Scott Cleland, chairman of the advocacy group NetCompetition, says that “an analysis of the Axios-reported memo … makes it clear that Alphabet-Google and SoftBank are the moving force behind it.”
“The proposal obviously would benefit their interests first and foremost and it goes in the exact direction they have lobbied for over the last several years,” he continued, alleging it’s at least partially due to SoftBank’s chummy relationship with China and Google’s apparent wishes to create such a relationship with the country for personal business interests.
Cleland adds that “for Alphabet-Google, the big ‘tell’ is on page 26 of the document” in which “Google is tellingly the only company listed as part of the twelve ‘government’ entities” with ostensible support for such a plan.
“This apparent unique Google-government relationship,” according to Cleland, “obviously flows from the unique role that Google had as the only corporate leader involved in the Obama OSTP [Office of Science and Technology Policy] PCAST [President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology] report that proposed a very similar nationalized 5G wireless approach in 2012.”
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