Telecommunications Policy

FCC Chair Throws Water on Crazy Plan for Feds to Seize Control of Our 5G Networks

No, the government shouldn't nationalize our mobile infrastructure.

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Ajit Pai
AARON P. BERNSTEIN/REUTERS/Newscom

Somebody in the National Security Council wants to use some nebulous threat from China as an excuse for the feds to seize control of the nation's mobile network.

Reporters from Axios got their hands on the presentation and published the details Sunday evening. Axios summarizes:

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.

The best way to do this, the memo argues, is for the government to build a network itself. It would then rent access to carriers like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. (A source familiar with the document's drafting told Axios this is an "old" draft and a newer version is neutral about whether the U.S. government should build and own it.)

First of all, the idea that the federal government is going to be able to build this faster than the private market is utterly absurd, as can be demonstrated by every single government project that has gone over budget and taken much longer than expected. As Axios notes, the wireless industry is already deploying 5G networks to customers. AT&T started rolling out 5G service with the start of the new year.

Experts told Axios that it will take a decade to roll out 5G networks altogether. This plan calls for it in three years, which seems wildly implausible. I suspect people in government think it's just like building highways: They just need to hire more people to make it happen.

And how exactly would nationalizing this infrastructure make it more secure? Has everybody forgotten the hackers (allegedly Chinese) who breached the federal Office of Personnel Management and got their mitts on millions of records of government employees? They succeeded partly because the federal government had done such a poor job at protecting data security in the first place. Why would any sensible American trust them to protect the security of a national network? What is the mechanism for accountability should they fail?

Fortunately, deregulation-minded Federal Communications Chair Ajit Pai recognizes how terrible this plan is. He put out a statement today:

I oppose any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network. 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. What government can and should do is to push spectrum into the commercial marketplace and set rules that encourage the private sector to develop and deploy next-generation infrastructure. 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.

Nationalizing a massive chunk of a private industry is one of the crazier ideas to come out of the administration so far. Since this is a leak of a report, we have no idea how seriously the administration is taking it. They should back far away from this proposal.

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72 responses to “FCC Chair Throws Water on Crazy Plan for Feds to Seize Control of Our 5G Networks

  1. Rarely discussed too is that as companies upgrade to 5G, they can sell their older 4G systems to smaller cell companies who might have older equipment, simultaneously creating a better overall cellular network for all Americans.

    1. But then some people will have aesser mobile connectivity, exacerbating inequality and creating a permanent underclass of digital serfs. No, the old 4G networks must be destroyed and everyone moved to the new NSA managed 5G. For the children.

      1. Yes, that worked so well with “Cash for Clunkers” with poor people not buying good older cars but instead using their feet or the bus.

        Think of the children who got to walk instead of riding in a clunker.

        1. Each G just increases childhood obesity.

      2. Your phone is probably not going to be 5g (for one thing, 5g signals can’t go through walls). 5g will probably be used for fixed wireless links (like between cell phone towers) but still use 4g for the final link mobile link. But this will let the tower server a much larger number of devices than currently.

    2. Not likely. If you’ve been following the 5G news you would realize 4G will be used as a fallback for when 5G is not available or is not cost-effective. 2G and 3G may be phased out to free up more spectrum.

      1. Speaking for a major cell provider, I know our 3G network is going bye-bye within a year or so and we’re putting even basic phones on 4G. I expect the government to reclaim that spectrum, as they did with the analog system when that was forced to be shut down years back.

      2. Makes sense.

    3. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

      This is what I do… http://www.startonlinejob.com

      1. Is it on 5G cell service by chance?

    4. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

      This is what I do… http://www.startonlinejob.com

      1. If you upgraded your network you wouldn’t double post.

  2. Between the Russian hacking of the elections and people like Snowden I see no evidence that the government is anymore capable of protecting us than private industry

    1. Its totally different with National Security. They can classify their screw ups and the public won’t know for decades

  3. But think of all the people that might die if the terrorists know what Youtube videos we’re watching on an unsecure “private” 5G network! I mean, doesn’t anybody remember Benghazi and the effects of Youtube?

    Oh… wait… Well, what difference, at this point, does that make anyway.

  4. The best way to do this, the memo argues, is for the government to build a network itself.

    The same faulty logic that say adding a bureaucracy between a person and health-coverage/care somehow makes it less expensive.

    1. “is for the government to build a network itself”

      Shovel ready jobs!

      1. Wood-chipper ready jobs.

  5. Is the internet dead yet?

  6. “You want your Net Neutrality? Well, here’s your Net Neutrality, good and hard!”

    1. Good and hard was my nickname in the French Foreign Legion.

      1. Good and Plenty was my nickname at the candy store

        1. Damn BUCS, you stole my line. 12 minutes ago.

        2. Goo’ed and Evil was my nickname at band camp.

  7. Also:

    A single, centralized network also means a single, centralized point of interception.

    1. And, probably more likely to affect the normal user, a single point of failure.

      1. What’s next, you’re going to tell me that centrally planned food production can lead to famines? Don’t be silly.

        1. But then again, you can’t have an omelet without cracking a few eggs.

  8. But But But… Some tiny postage stamp country out there has better infrastructure than we do, so we HAVE to make america government again…

    1. Yeah, this exactly! And I don’t understand why, either! Not only do many of our States have a tenth of the population of some of these postage stamp countries, they also have ten to a hundred times the land mass! Surely, building infrastructure in such environments should be easy, right?

  9. People will literally die if the government doesn’t build this.

  10. But muh 5G is a basic human right!

    /s

  11. I found the general tone at Slashdot amusing. The people who mistrust Trump and used to rail against spying are largely in favor of this because it apparently takes power away from the cell phone companies. The privacy concerns are dismissed as irrelevant because ‘if the government wants the data, they’ll get it.’

    The only thing compelling was the theory that it hobbles the third party doctrine currently used to get private data. The idea was along the lines that if the government runs the network, it can hardly claim to be a third party.
    Compelling, but not nearly strong enough for me to support anything close to government run cell phone network.

    1. The third party argument has to be a joke. How can you possibly believe that somehow ends well?

  12. And, of course where will be a “Made in America” mandate, like all good government programs.

    Good luck with that.

    And since the US is paying, they will pay more than the private companies.

    “Making China Great Again”

  13. I’m just glad that floated that while Trump is president and not when Obama was.

    1. ^ This. Trump’s FCC appointee “threw cold water on it”.

  14. The NSA already has access to these networks so I don’t see why the outrage should be any more or any less over being more honest about that fact. I guess having the government directly control the networks is worse than just having them monitor every last piece of data that flows through it.

    I mean, we’ve already admitted that search, seizure, and warrants aren’t needed in spite of the constitution so it’s pretty tough to get all mad when that same government says they own the towers, inn’it?

  15. The reporter at Axios probably ‘got their hands’ on the presentation because the shit stirrer who created it sent them a copy after he got shot down.

  16. Add Government to 5G and you’ve got 6G’s, so we’ve got that going for us.

    1. Fly like a G6…

  17. If your thesis proved accurate, we’d already be seeing high speed internet throughout the country.

    However, inner city, small town, and rural America are decades behind the rest of the nation (and urban and suburban America is far behind China, Hong Kong and S. Korea, all of which deliver gigbit to the handset–and have for years).

    Clearly there is something wrong with your thesis.

    OTOH, the Federal Rural Electrification and Rural Telephone projects were resounding successes.

    If the private sector can do it better, they have a strange way of demonstrating it.

    1. Of course, let us note that all of those nations except China could handily fit inside one U.S. State not to mention that it seems unlikely that all of China actually has a superior system.

      1. Noted by the fact you list ‘Hong Kong’ and ‘China’ in the same sentence, which is pretty amusing. It’s like mentioning New York separate from the United States. Weird, huh? Even more unusual when Hong Kong specifically was likely the single most Westernized section of China. Cherry pick much?

      2. I’d also like to know: how many of these countries have done this with private enterprise rather than government control? Considering that China has been quietly embracing Capitalism, we can’t even assume that *their* network was put together by government.

        (Which, now that I think of it, I can’t help but wonder: Why is China so much in a hurry to increase their gigabits? It’s not as if the government lets you look at anything you want, anyway….)

    2. I wondered when the IFL/Ars Technica faggots would be out.

    3. Rural electrification took 40 years to be a success. I don’t know much about the statistics of telephone adoption in rural areas, but it took 20 years at least. And now rural areas have cell phones, which completely obsolete party lines in many areas. Note that the government did not have to be involved in that process. Thank God, otherwise they’d still be waiting.

      Notice that neither electrification nor the telephone project were actually done by government. In both cases, already existing coops were the actual actors. Government just paid roving groups of unemployed people to do the wiring of individual farms.

      1. Not to mention that if the government hadn’t gotten involved, a market would almost certainly have formed to rake in the profits with local power generation or some other technology. We might have had windmill farms 20 years earlier. Superconductors? Who knows. No one will invest in risky technology development if they are going to have to compete with a subsidized known technology.

    4. There are issues with the countries you chose. You’re simply wrong about the widespread access in China. Hong Kong is one city and not everyone actually has internet access via their cellphone there. South Korea is very small in size and consistently developed; rural areas are not very far away from urban areas, as in the US west. It would be more apt to compare it to the megalopolis of our east coast. In each of these countries, private internet usage is primarily phone based. According to this and this, the US does pretty well with our private infrastructure. The other countries are rich, small, and/or less populous.

      Why didn’t you mention North Korea or Russia? Russia’s Rostelecom is largely state-owned and originated that way.

      OTOH, the government of Japan is more hands-off than our own and they’ve done pretty well.

  18. This is an attempt by Obama Holdovers and the deep state to continue business as usual. And since Trumpnothing to do with Trump,

  19. Such nationalization is an attempt by Obama Holdovers and the deep state to continue business as usual. Yet since Trump’s nominee is against it, why portray this as Trump’s proposal?

    This is just yet more uncalled-for, if not wildly inaccurate, anti-Trump reporting. Reason is yet again proving itself just as biased as the rest of the Anti-Trump media. Shame on you Shackford and shame on Reason!

    1. You’re an idiot. Shackford didn’t mention Trump at all.

      Or is this slightly topical spam?

    2. So they speak kindly to the current chairman of the FCC appointed by Trump and you go off the rails trying to mock reason.com?

      WTH? Are you mental?

  20. I do not take this one national security presentation as a possible federal policy (there are undoubtedly policy briefs on the necessity of a US invasion of Mexico)

    But is not the spectrum “owned” by the State in any event? Would this be an actual nationalization?

    And I am curious as to the Silicon Valley types who are adamantly opposed to this idea because it comes from a Trump source but who would undoubtedly been in favor if it had been proposed in a Obama State of Union (“Such a Visionary!!”)

    There is the analogue of the national Australian Broadband rollout.

  21. This will piss off the Net Neutrality advocates since public ownership of broadband infrastructure is their endgame.

    Ajit’s tow for two.

    1. And two for tow.

      1. And tea for two, and two for tea, and me for you, and you for me…

        … dancing off into the sunset …

  22. “First of all, the idea that the federal government is going to be able to build this faster than the private market is utterly absurd, as can be demonstrated by every single government project that has gone over budget and taken much longer than expected.”

    Give it to the FAA. They have a surplus of vacuum tubes they use in their electronic equipment.

  23. I’m sure Congressional Republicans with step in to stop this to preserve the integrity of the free market.

  24. Really, Who thinks it is a good idea to give the government direct control over all of our communications? Who among us is so utterly devoid of sense that they think the government wouldn’t abuse that power and spy on us? This is the dumbest idea ever.

    What is the number one go to sales tactic, that Trump surely knows? Ask for a million dollar commitment, then settle for a $10,000 commitment. Foolish customers go with the second offer out of guilt from saying no to the first. Pay attention folks, this is the million dollar proposal. Look out for the scam that gets offered when we obviously reject this one.

    Trump is running a basic sales routine on us, don’t be the dumbass who buys from this con-artist.

    1. The FCC has control over our airwaves, and for a while there they had control over our wired infrastructure. The steaming masses seemed to think that was a good idea. So in answer to your first question, quite a few people ‘think’ (and I use that loosely) it’s a good idea to give government direction control over all our communications.

  25. I almost stopped reading when I read the part that said “as can be demonstrated by every single government project that has gone over budget and taken much longer than expected.” This is such a tired and overstated point of view. I work with many gov’t agencies and they all employ very smart and very capable people. Yes there’s plenty of dead wood just like you find in large organizations. Yes there are gov’t projects that miss deadlines and go over budget just as there are in large corporations.

    The company I consult for works primarily with project managers and we do business in both the public and private sectors. There is no difference in the problems and challenges they face. They both answer to the public, one in the form of dollar voting and the other in the form of poll voting. Someone’s ass is on the line in both cases when things go wrong. It’s time to rethink that tired, lame story about the bumbling public sector.

    1. They both answer to the public, one in the form of dollar voting and the other in the form of poll voting

      One of which requires 100% approval from the voters, the other of which requires only 51% approval. Which is great, I suppose, if you think that the 49% who disagreed are just stupid idiots who ought to buy whatever kind of deodorant (/cell company) the wise and benevolent 51% tell them to. Until another 4 years go by and 2% of the previous 51% change their minds and join the previous 49%, that is, at which point the correct kind of deodorant (/cell company) for everyone presumably magically becomes the kind that had been righteously condemned for the previous 4 years, while the kind that had deservedly and justly been granted universality for the previous 4 years instantly becomes the folly of fools and vice of knaves. But one thing’s for sure: there’s only ever 1 right way of doing things, and the patched-together coalition of special interests attempting to simultaneously control a 1,000+ entrenched bureaucracies because they managed to eke out a few dozen more votes than the other, diametrically opposed patched-together coalition of special interests are the only ones that can be trusted to find out what it is.

      It’s time to rethink that tired, lame story about the bumbling public sector

      “Pay no attention to the DoD, DoE, VHA, Medicaid, Medicare, ACA, Social Security, HUD, and DMV behind the curtain.”

    2. Someone’s ass is on the line in both cases when things go wrong. It’s time to rethink that tired, lame story about the bumbling public sector.

      Ah, that explains why cops are so routinely held responsible for their trigger happy blunders.

      1. Shit, I forgot one of the best examples.

    3. They both answer to the public, one in the form of dollar voting and the other in the form of poll voting.

      Yes, but dollar voting works and poll voting doesn’t.

      Someone’s ass is on the line in both cases when things go wrong.

      Even removing a single government employee from their job is very hard and costly. Closing down entire departments is next to impossible.

      It’s time to rethink that tired, lame story about the bumbling public sector.

      Yes: go to your room and don’t come out until you understand that story and recognize its truth.

    4. Large corporations that routinely miss deadlines go out of business.

      Large governments that routinely miss deadlines blame it on not having enough money and then reward themselves with a bigger budget.

      I’m pretty sure I see a difference there. How about you?

  26. “…Our 5G WiFi”?
    Which 5G network do you own, Scott?

    1. Scott apparently doesn’t understand the difference between “5GHz WiFi” and “5th Generation cellular”.

  27. I can see what your saying… Raymond `s article is surprising, last week I bought a top of the range Acura from making $4608 this-past/month and-a little over, $10,000 this past month . with-out any question its the easiest work I’ve ever had . I began this five months/ago and almost straight away startad bringin in minimum $82 per-hr

    HERE? ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, http://www.homework5.com

  28. “More secure” is code for “easier for us to listen in on”. It’s the same reason and b.s. justification European governments force US tech giants to locate their server in Europe.

    And unlike the Chinese government, which is mainly interested in industrial espionage and a few foolish powerful targets, US government employees are highly motivated to spy on everything every US citizen does, and find any violation of law, no matter how technical or minor.

  29. As long as the government ownership reduces the cost of 5G and 4G internet connections, I guess I am okay with that.

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