Axios reported Sunday that the Trump administration is mulling a decision to nationalize a 5G broadband network, a move it believes will “create a secure pathway for emerging technologies like self-driving cars and virtual reality—and to combat Chinese threats to America’s economic and cyber security.”
Axios obtained a National Security Council memo and PowerPoint presentation that argue for a centralized national 5G network within three years; they have reportedly already been shown to top officials in other government agencies.
Two options laid out by the documents:
- The U.S. government pays for and builds the single network — which would be an unprecedented nationalization of a historically private infrastructure.
- An alternative 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. [...]
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.
In the memo, Axios reported, the NSC official argued that the first option is “the 21st century equivalent of the Eisenhower National Highway System.”
The private sector has already invested billions of dollars in developing and testing a 5G broadband network, making the likelihood of the U.S. government building one from scratch—and beating the private sector in the process—slim. AT&T reached out to Axios shortly after they published the initial report to share that the company is “already well down the road” on a private, national 5G network.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai came out against the idea on Monday morning.