Kerrigan: The Race to Nationalize 5G Must be Stopped!

By at 14 October, 2020, 9:15 am

by Karen Kerrigan-

A funny thing happened on the way to the finish line in the race to deploy 5G  – a small but determined group of nationalizers have re-emerged (yet again!) and are pushing harder than ever for the federal government to manage America’s critically important advanced communications network.

Of course, this is not funny at all. America’s private sector and private-led investment have created and built the world’s best networks and infrastructure, as evidenced by U.S. innovative leadership and the capacity of our networks to meet extraordinarily high demand during COVID-19. The U.S. experience stands in stark contrast to the rest of the world, to wit: Europe’s “creaking internet,” as described in a recent Bloomberg piece. So, this lurch to nationalize 5G is both suspect and risky. It undermines positive 5G momentum, not to mention the billions of investment dollars that have already been expended on 5G development and deployment by the private sector.

As noted in a coalition letter signed by SBE Council opposing the nationalization of 5G, a Request for Information (RFI) by the Department of Defense (DoD) “on a government-managed process for 5G development” is moving forward with lightning speed. “Even more disturbing are the rumors that the RFI was only for show and that the DoD already has an RFP it plans to greenlight.”

We all know what happens when government tries to replicate, compete with, intrude upon, or takeover what the private sector is doing quite well. Government bureaucracies just can’t stop themselves from creating red tape and more rules, getting waylaid by political brawls, and building new fiefdoms. Moreover, the government would create a mess in a complex and diverse industry where it has little, if any, real-world exposure. There is simply no rationale for the federal government to nationalize 5G. There have been no calls from Congress to do so, the FCC opposes the move, and most recently Senator John Thune (R-SD) and nearly 20 of his colleagues called on the Trump Administration to stay with the free-market approach on 5G and avoid any efforts to nationalize 5G development.

While “national security” is the DoD’s justification for nationalizing 5G, the fact that there would be only one national 5G network actually presents a significant security challenge. As Senator Thune and his colleagues note in their letter, “bad actors” would need only penetrate one network instead of several, giving them a better shot at disrupting our entire nation’s wireless infrastructure.

Our small business members know quite well what’s at stake, and why SBE Council has been a strong advocate for accelerated 5G rollout and key initiatives to make that happen – such as regulatory policy modernization, making more spectrum available, and needed support from state and local officials. These actions have formed the groundwork for the billions of dollars in investment and complex work being positioned to bring Americans and our entrepreneurs the next generation of advanced networks.

Of course, the private sector has executed beautifully in delivering every generation of communications technology, which has served to boost small business growth and competitiveness while fostering innovative entrepreneurship. The long-standing collaborative approach between the federal government and private industry, light-touch regulation, along with forward-thinking and energetic Federal Communications Commission (FCC) leadership have all worked together to keep the investment flowing and new innovations emerging.

Especially during COVID-19, where faster, reliable and resilient networks are more important than ever, the Administration and policymakers must reward and further enable what’s working and what’s needed for a strong recovery and universal access to broadband. That means more pro-investment policies and support to accelerate the privately-led development and deployment of 5G.

It’s time to let the idea of nationalizing 5G die, and for good.

Karen Kerrigan is president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.  


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