Former Rep Hopes Coronavirus Fallout Convinces US To Distrust Chinese Tech, Build Up Its Own 5G

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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  • Former Rep. Mike Rogers said the coronavirus pandemic should help focus Americans’ attention on preventing China from building out crucial fifth-generation technology. 
  • Such technology will be the catalyst for developing the kind of telemedicine citizens will depend on if another pandemic strikes the United States, the former Michigan Republican told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • Richard Bennett, an original creator of the Wi-Fi network, said he hopes the country will “learn something from this” and take the need for 5G buildout seriously.

Supporters of fifth-generation mobile service say they hope China’s lack of transparency on the coronavirus crisis will scare U.S. officials into recognizing that Chinese technology is a threat to U.S. national security.

China’s work downplaying the virus’s impact makes clear that the U.S. should not rely on the communist nation to help build out 5G, former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers told the Daily Caller News Foundation. Reports show China, where coronavirus began, misled World Health Organization officials about how lethal the virus is to humans.

Rogers worries there is too much internal squabbling inside the White House and among federal agencies regarding the extent to which the U.S. should build out such technology. The problem is now more pronounced as China demonstrates it is a real threat, according to the former Republican lawmaker.

“We are all in trouble” if politicians are still wrestling over 5G a year from now because Beijing is not going to give up on becoming one of the largest purveyors of such technological know-how, Rogers said. He chairs 5G Action Now, a group working to push regulators into moving faster on such technology.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper urged the Federal Communications Commission in November 2019 to slow down on 5G spectrum rollout, citing concerns related to “national security, civil service, and the economic benefit of the nation.” Esper believes private companies should not be using federally regulated radio spectrum to deploy 5G as it could potentially disrupt GPS services.

The FCC announced in April 2019 that it will auction three slices of millimeter-wave airwaves, yet the Department of  Defense and other agencies associated with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which manages spectrum for the government, are clashing. The kind of 5G spectrum that the FCC seeks to approve conflicts with the Pentagon’s own pursuits.

Former Intelligence Committee Chair Rep. Mike Rogers talking about Edward Snowden in 2013 (YouTube screenshot)

Such strife gives China an opening as the U.S. pursues the kind of tools that help advance telemedicine, a type of technology allowing doctors and medical practitioners to provide care to patients remotely via live stream. Giving China the keys to 5G makes it more difficult to secure telemedicine for American citizens, according to Rogers.

Rogers also echoed a concern that White House trade adviser Peter Navarro expressed during a March 17 Fox News interview in which he said “the government does not buy American enough.” The U.S. government is too reliant on Chinese pharmaceutical production, Navarro believes. The Michigan Republican agrees.

“Like zombies, people have stumbled into this notion that China can handle our supply chain on telecommunications. What about medicines?” he asked rhetorically before noting that the United States’ reliance on China “interrupted our ability to make decisions and get our citizens taken care of.”

The Trump administration is taking measures to prevent citizens from rushing to the hospital amid the coronavirus scare. Other conservatives are expressing similar concerns.

Republican Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, for one, introduced a bill on Feb. 27 requiring manufacturers to report imminent or forecasted shortages of life-saving or life-sustaining medical devices to regulators.

“Our health officials need to know the extent of our reliance on Chinese production so they can take all necessary action to protect Americans,” Hawley told the Daily Caller in February. (RELATED: Exclusive: Former Rep. Mike Rogers Leads Group Calling On FCC To Move Quicker On 5G Tech)

Two of China’s biggest and most aggressive telecommunications companies are ZTE and Huawei, according to Rogers, Hawley and other conservatives. President Donald Trump is using American diplomats to pressure U.S. allies to steer clear of China’s products as they build up 5G.

Trump “just called me from AF1 and instructed me to make clear that any nation who chooses to use an untrustworthy 5G vendor will jeopardize our ability to share Intelligence and information at the highest level,” then-U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell told his Twitter followers in February.

China, for its part, has reportedly spent $24 billion more on wireless communications infrastructure since 2015 than the U.S. The country also built more 5G towers in a three-month span in 2017 than the U.S. did in three years.

If China beats out the West on this front then the U.S. will effectively be a subordinate non-entity in determining how such technology is deployed, Rogers and others believe.

China, WHO logo (Shutterstock, Daily Caller)

China, WHO logo (Shutterstock, Daily Caller)

Chinese authorities disciplined the first doctors in Wuhan, China, who tried to warn people about the virus, which has killed more than 8,000 people globally. The country reportedly did not include more than 43,000 people who tested positive in the nation’s official tally of confirmed cases.

China is not trustworthy, Rogers noted.

Richard Bennett, one of the original creators of the Wi-Fi system, shared Rogers’s sense of urgency.

“I expect telework, teleconferencing, and telehealth will gain a permanent boost in adoption as more people learn how to use them and more organizations see their value,” Bennett told the DCNF. The response to the virus will create urgency for better Wi-Fi systems as well a ramp up in 5G services, according to Bennett, who added: “I hope we can all learn something from this.”

Bennett is best known for co-inventing Ethernet and Wi-Fi MAC protocol, among other major networks.

Bennett and Rogers’s remarks came as experts worry about the impact the virus pandemic will have on a strained internet network. Netflix, YouTube and Amazon and other livestream operations are cutting their bandwidth usage in Europe amid high demand there.

Still, the United States is in better shape than its European allies, according to some analysts.

“I’ve spoken to many of our partners about the experience of their employees using Xfinity to work from home, and generally reports are good,” Comcast chief business development officer Sam Schwartz told Axios Monday.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr mirrored Schwartz’s position.

“The performance of the networks up to now doesn’t give any indication that we’re going to be in that type of situation,” Carr, a Republican, told Axios Monday. “There’s nothing in the current traffic patterns and traffic flows that suggest that.”

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