Chris White, DCNF
Conservative tech groups are cheering President Donald Trump’s move to dramatically expand fifth-generation development despite calls to nationalize the technology.
Conservatives and free market tech groups trumpeted the president’s decision Friday to auction off three big slices of millimeter-wave airwaves that experts argue are important to provide 5G network capability to rural areas. Trump and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced a series of moves to expand development without nationalizing mobile networks.
“America has become the leader in internet deployment due to light-touch regulation that allows providers flexibility in helping close the digital divide,” Taxpayers Protection Alliance President David Williams wrote in a press statement. “President Trump and Chairman Pai’s announcement shows that the government will continue to pave the way for rapid 5G deployment by keeping bureaucrats at bay.”
William also marked a point of caution for one of the ideas highlighted in Trump’s push. The president’s “Rural Digital Opportunity Fund” (RDOF), which is designed to spend roughly $20 billion over a decade on rural broadband, will need to be monitored, he said. TPA seems to support the administration’s idea to auction off the largest-ever amount of airwaves any president has ever auctioned off for commercial use.
FreedomWorks also gave the president some accolades.
“While there were many ideas about a path forward on 5G, this administration deserves all the credit in the world for recognizing that the best way to outpace rivals like China is not to copy them, but do what America does best: unleash our unbeatable private sector,” Ken Cuccinelli, FreedomWorks Foundation Director of the Regulatory Action Center, said in a statement Friday.
“We’re not going to rely on a government-owned wholesale 5G network, nor are we going to rely on a government fiber backhaul network,” Richard Bennett, founder of High Tech Forum, said in a press statement Friday.
He is perhaps best known for co-inventing Ethernet and wi-fi MAC protocol, among other major networks.
Bennett also criticized tech experts who supported the idea of nationalizing 5G.
“This will be disappointing to Obama administration figures such as Susan Crawford, Gigi Sohn, and Kevin Werbach who advocate government control of network infrastructure, of course,” he said.
Trump’s push comes as a handful of Republicans continue pushing for a new tactic, one that involves developing such technologies in a way similar to China. Newt Gingrich, a Trump supporter and a former Georgia congressman, for one, is an advocate of allowing the government to take a pronounced role in development. Gingrich’s argument either never made it to the president’s inner circle or National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow managed to win the day.
The president has pushed for expanding 5G development for months, partially to beat back China, which outspent the U.S. by $24 billion and has built 350,000 wireless towers since 2015, according to Deloitte Consulting’s research. The U.S. had built just 30,000 during that same time. China is one of a handful of countries with the resources required for a massive buildup.