In response to a widely circulated report that the Trump administration is considering construction of a nationalized 5G wireless network, the administration responded by telling Recode it has no serious plans to embark upon such a grandiose plan.
Sunday evening, Axios reported it had obtained a PowerPoint presentation “produced by a senior National Security Council official” detailing how the U.S. needs to build its own 5G wireless networks to guard against China becoming a dominant player in wireless infrastructure and AI. The reported argument, made of PowerPoint slides, is that China is a “malicious actor in the Information Domain” and the U.S. may soon lack the ability to challenge it in an information arms race, and thus become vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks.
Such a network, the presentation argues, is like the “21st century equivalent of the Eisenhower National Highway System,” which was a federally funded, 35-year project that connected disparate parts of the U.S. by nearly 48,000 miles of interstate highways.
But the administration refutes the seriousness of this PowerPoint, reportedly telling Recode that the document is a “dated” proposal that was merely “floated” by a member of the national security staff. The claim it was dated was refuted by Axios reporter Jonathan Swan:
Such a grand, nationalized infrastructure project has garnered little support elsewhere in the government.
The Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, is strongly against the idea. This is in line with Pai’s decision to repeal net-neutrality rules, which he argued were an unnecessary government regulation.
“I oppose any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network,” Pai 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.”
“Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future,” Pai added.
Democratic Senator Mark Warner, who once worked in the telecom industry and is now the vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, largely agrees with Pai — even though they disagreed on net neutrality.
“While I’m glad that the Trump Administration recognizes that maintaining American leadership in the information age requires a significant investment commitment, I’m concerned that constructing a nationalized 5G network would be both expensive and duplicative,” Warner said in a statement.