WASHINGTON — FCC chairman Ajit Pai said he opposes any proposal in which the federal government would be tasked with building and operating a next generation mobile network.
Pai’s announcement came after a report that the Trump administration security officials are considering a plan in which the federal government would build the network and lease access to private providers. Axios reported that the rationale behind the plan is to ensure cybersecurity, particularly the threat of China.
But such a plan to nationalize the wireless network conflicts with much of the philosophy of Pai and other Republican members of the FCC, which is that private enterprise is better equipped to build out a network. The reasoning for the recent repeal of the net neutrality rules was that government
regulation was choking off investment by telecom and cable providers in new technology.
“I oppose any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network,” Pai said in a statement. “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.”
Pai added, “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.”
Michael O’Rielly, another Republican on the FCC, also said he opposed any effort to nationalize the 5G network.
“I’ve seen lead balloons tried in D.C. before but this is like a balloon made out of a Ford Pinto,” he said. “If accurate, the Axios story suggests options that may be under consideration by the administration that are nonsensical and do not recognize the current marketplace. Instead, U.S. commercial wireless companies are the envy of the world and are already rushing ahead to lead in 5G. I plan to do everything in my power to provide the necessary resources, including allocating additional spectrum and preempting barriers to deployment, to allow this private sector success to continue.”
This article originally ran on variety.com.