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Trump Administration Official Proposes Nationalizing 5G Over Security Concerns

Phillip Dampier January 29, 2018 Community Networks, Competition, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Wireless Broadband 2 Comments

National security officials inside the Trump Administration dropped a controversial proposal on the desks of multiple federal agencies that advocates a federal government takeover of the nation’s forthcoming 5G wireless network.

Axios obtained a copy of an accompanying memo and PowerPoint presentation outlining the proposal that would nationalize 5G service and have taxpayers fund the construction of a single,  nationwide network that would allow federal officials to secure traffic from foreign economic and cybersecurity threats.

Some national security officials worry the Chinese have achieved dominant market positions in network infrastructure and artificial intelligence, and this could have security implications for emerging technologies like self-driving cars and machine to machine communications, which will likely use 5G networks.

“China is the dominant malicious actor in the Information Domain,” the presentation notes, adding that two Chinese manufacturers – ZTE and Huawei are dominant players in 5G infrastructure at a time when American manufacturers of wireless technology are disappearing.

That 5G technology and who makes it is becoming a national security issue, claims the author, advocating reduced risk by authorizing the United States government to build a single, nationwide 5G wireless network, on which America’s wireless carriers could lease secure access. The network concept could even eventually be shared with America’s allies to protect them from “Chinese neo-colonial behavior,” the author writes.

The author of the presentation, perhaps unintentionally, waded into the heart of a fierce debate between municipalities, broadband advocates and private cable and phone companies and their funded special interest groups, over the benefits of public vs. private broadband service.

Calling the taxpayer-funded effort “the 21st century equivalent of the Eisenhower National Highway System,” the author advocated first spending up to $200 billion to construct a national fiber optic backbone that would reach neighborhood 5G small cells. Additional funding would cover small cell placement and equipment.

The author implied the Department of Defense budget could be tapped for some of the money, quoting the Secretary’s interest in expanding secure communications. The author noted little of the military’s current $700 billion budget does any good for the American people in the information domain. Constructing a secured 5G broadband network would presumably change that.

The proposal suggests a national 5G network could be up and running within three years, if it became a government priority. ISPs and other users would then be able to obtain access on the network to service their respective customers.

If adopted, the Trump Administration would oversee the country’s largest public broadband project in American history, paid for by U.S. taxpayers, a concept that has traditionally been anathema to most Republicans and the broadband industry. Both have traditionally opposed public broadband projects if or when they compete with the private sector.

“This is coming from a Trump’s National Security Council,” tweeted Hal Singer, a principal at Economists, Inc. “If the same thoughts came from Bernie Sander’s NSC (or Elizabeth Warren’s), Republicans would be up in arms and Fox News would sound the socialism alarm.”

Commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission also roundly criticized the proposal.

“I oppose any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network,” wrote FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. “The market, not the government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment.”

Pai wants the government to accelerate the allocation of additional wireless spectrum that could be auctioned off to wireless carriers to expand 5G.

The large wireless carriers remained silent about the implications of the proposal, claiming they had not yet seen it.

But by late morning, the Trump Administration was attempting to downplay the presentation, telling Recode the document was dated and had merely been floated by a staff member and was not a reflection of an imminent major policy announcement.

That did not stop four of the five commissioners at the FCC from hurrying out statements criticizing the proposal, and the fifth tweeting negatively about it. They apparently took it very seriously:

Currently there are 2 comments on this Article:

  1. Mark says:

    It doesn’t talk about nationalization, it proposes a 200MHz block that could be built out and leased to carriers. It doesn’t prevent carriers building their own networks.

  2. kaniki says:

    There are soo many things wrong here, it is just dumb.. First, is this a factual memo, or just something that someone made up? I see no sources from where this came from.. For all we know, this could have been someones bad joke.. Or, just someone trying to make someone look bad.. Source please..

    Since Verizon, and AT&T use slightly different tech, that means that what works for Verizon will not nor for AT&T, and vise versa.. Which means, both will need their own equipment, etc.. If anything, it would be more that the government just lays down the network, and everyone connects to it.. I do not see how, if everyone is using their own tech, how it would be fully the government thing like they make it sound..

    Then add in that this just will not work and be unfair to each company in soo many ways.. for example, Sprint that has not built out their network, will suddenly be having it built out for them for free.. Then what happens when you do not have service in a certain area, and a company wants to put some in?? Oh, sorry, the government did not lay any lines down over there so we can not go there?? Uh, NO..

    Not to mention that the government’s ability to spy on the average person just goes through the roof.. What happens during major problems.. Private companies can jump on getting it fixed.. The government.. Well, let me take some bids.. You should have service restored in about 3 weeks.. If your lucky.. If everything is run from one set of lines, then that really reduces redundancy.. After all, there is one set of lines.. Maybe 2 max.. for the data to pass through.. But, if each company has their own lines, if one goes down, the other companies can still have live service.. Better backup.. especially in natural disasters..

    I just see soo many problems with this.. This has to be a bad joke.. Too bad for it to even be considered to be a true thing that they were planning..

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