China’s aggressive push to dominate 5G wireless technology has given rise to calls for the U.S. government to take over the development of a national 5G network. In fact, there is no reason to panic.
American companies are rising to the 5G challenge. Socialism and crony capitalism will only undermine U.S. progress in the race to 5G.
The success of tech companies like Apple and Microsoft is emblematic of what American innovation and its competitive spirit can accomplish. The companies that have changed the world and kept America at the cutting edge have rarely if ever been the spawn of government. When politicians in Washington team up with special interests, it generally distorts competition and impedes groundbreaking innovation.
Fifth generation, or 5G, wireless technology is of cosmic importance and is one of the most significant high-tech breakthroughs ever. It is elemental to what some see as the Fourth Industrial Revolution – not merely upgrading current technology, but enabling a revolution with new technology.
The speed and processing power of 5G wireless technology will turn the futuristic visions of smart cities, smart agriculture, telemedicine, autonomous vehicles, and so much more into reality. Within the coming decade, businesses small and large will essentially have to have 5G access to compete and succeed.
Bringing politicians and bureaucrats into the mix is a surefire way to gum up the process of deploying 5G.
With the stakes so high, President Trump is hearing calls from aides and outside interests to push for more government control in building out our 5G network.
Some Trump administration officials are counseling that beating China to the punch in 5G leadership is so crucial that the federal government should build a nationwide wholesale 5G network. In essence, they are saying that in order to beat China we have to become like China.
This myopic and misbegotten advice ignores a rather crucial fact: Private sector wireless providers are already investing in and creating the national 5G network. America’s pre-eminent high-tech network construction leaders, Verizon and AT&T, already have 5G projects underway across the country.
U.S. wireless providers, who won the race to 4G without government assistance, ask only that they be allowed to invest and innovate under free-market policies that minimize regulatory red tape and expense. Bringing politicians and bureaucrats into the mix is a surefire way to gum up the process of deploying 5G.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai agrees. He said: “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. 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.”
Advocates of government keeping a huge portion of the spectrum to itself to jumpstart construction of a national 5G network naively believe this would be a limited, light-handed intervention. Their terrible proposal ignores reality.
One of the scientific properties of a gas is that it expands to fill the space it’s in; government is not much different. People calling for a national wholesale network may like to believe it will be neutral and immune to interference. But once we start down that road, who knows where we’ll end up?
It's completely possible that at some point in the future, as political tides shift, we could see the government controlling the 5G network, followed by control of messages on that network. In private hands the 5G network is a liberating force. In government hands it would look more like George Orwell’s Big Brother.
In the quest for 5G, government at all levels should not supplant but instead should empower the private sector. The FCC has already rewritten some regulations to begin streamlining and standardizing the permitting rules for 5G infrastructure.
The FCC should continue to step up the pace for transferring commercially useful spectrum to the private sector to use to develop 5G and even stipulate it be used for that purpose.
Some state legislatures and municipal governments have rid themselves of antiquated regulations that stand in the way of small cell antenna placement and taken other steps forward in the 5G process. Preventing greedy local politicians from holding 5G hostage will ensure that we have the universal network deployment necessary to make 5G work for all U.S. families, employers and public institutions.
If the Trump administration is serious about winning the global race to 5G and staying ahead of China it will ignore calls for a government takeover or a nationalized 5G network and continue to support policies that allow private sector investment to lead the way.
The faster the administration gives American companies the tools, the faster they will finish the job.
Have faith in free markets!