Trump is looking at nationalizing a 5G network

Axios reports

Trump national security officials are considering an unprecedented federal takeover of a portion of the nation’s mobile network to guard against China, according to sensitive documents obtained by Axios.

They are apparently looking at two approaches…

Two options laid out by the documents:

  1. The U.S. government pays for and builds the single network — which would be an unprecedented nationalization of a historically private infrastructure.
  2. Analternative plan where wireless providers build their own 5G networks that compete with one another — though the document says the downside is it could take longer and cost more. It argues that one of the “pros” of that plan is that it would cause “less commercial disruption” to the wireless industry than the government building a network.

Between the lines: A source familiar with the documents’ drafting says Option 2 is really no option at all: a single centralized network is what’s required to protect America against China and other bad actors.

  • The source said the internal White House debate will be over whether the U.S. government owns and builds the network or whether the carriers bind together in a consortium to build the network, an idea that would require them to put aside their business models to serve the country’s greater good.

Why it matters: Option 1 would lead to federal control of a part of the economy that today is largely controlled by private wireless providers. In the memo, the Trump administration likens it to “the 21st century equivalent of the Eisenhower National Highway System” and says it would create a “new paradigm” for the wireless industry by the end of Trump’s current term.

  • But, but, but: The proposal to nationalize a 5G network also only covers one part of the airwaves; there’d be other spaces where private companies could build.

The PowerPoint presentation says that the U.S. has to build superfast 5G wireless technology quickly because “China has achieved a dominant position in the manufacture and operation of network infrastructure,” and “China is the dominant malicious actor in the Information Domain.” To illustrate the current state of U.S. wireless networks, the PowerPoint uses a picture of a medieval walled city, compared to a future represented by a photo of lower Manhattan.

It would be a game changer. It would mean a tremendous amount of infrastructure as the reach of 5G is short distance. Maybe it would be a chance to look at an open access model. The hope I’d think would be that the infrastructure would be available for providers to tap into the network to provide wired solutions such as FTTP. It will be interesting to see what discussion develops in the public and private sectors.

[Added Jan 29 3 pm] Seems like Trump is denying this report. From Recode

The Trump Administration said it has no plans to build a 5G wireless network

This entry was posted in Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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