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National Security Council Proposes Nationalizing 5G Network

by Countable | 1.29.18

What’s the story?

In a powerpoint presentation and memo obtained by Axios, officials at the National Security Council propose nationalizing the emerging, mid-range 5G network in order to protect the U.S. from China and other "bad actors", while staying competitive in the global technology industry.

In the presentation the authors argue that 5G capability will be necessary for everything from self-driving cars to virtual reality to automated farming, and the capability must be protected from China, who is the "dominant malicious actor in the Information Domain."

If nationalized, the memo says the network would be a 21st century equivalent of the national highway system.

The other option outlined would be for existing corporations, who have already invested millions in developing 5G technology, to form a consortium to build the network together. The authors argue that would be unlikely to develop a nationwide, 5G network fast enough to adequately address threats to the U.S. economy and national security.

Ajit Pai, head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as well as the other FCC commissioners, came out on Monday with statements opposing the idea of nationalization. The Hill reports Pai argued for the free market continuing to be the best way to advance innovation:

"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."

National carriers, like AT&T and Verizon, have cited the work already underway to build a 5G network in response to news of the memo, which they say they have not seen. An industry executive also commented to the Wall Street Journal that the idea of nationalization runs counter to U.S. history:

"It would fly in the face of basically the entire history of US policy in terms of the private sector and government."

Given the memo’s stated goal of seeing a fully developed 5G network within three years, expect to hear more about this debate over government versus private ownership in the next 6-8 months.

What do you think?

Do you think nationalization is the answer here, or is the free market the better choice?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Pixabay / Creative Commons)

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