The Trump administration has now officially clarified that it has no plans on building a nationwide 5G network in the United States, contrary to what a controversial just-published memo suggests.
The issue stemmed from a proposal by an unnamed National Security Council official, a White House-based unit providing advisory on U.S. and foreign policy matters.
Centralized 5G Network Not Happening
The document, which was first published by Axios on Jan. 29, called for the government to nationalize a portion of the telecom sector, which would be a major aberration from existing policy, to ward off Chinese meddling. The memo claimed the only foolproof way to secure the next generation of wireless networks against snooping nations such as China is for the government to build a centralized network itself.
Of course, while the idea makes sense on paper, it has critical flaws, the most obvious one being that in order to build its own network, the U.S. government would probably have to work with companies it will effectively replace should this centralized network be completed. Why? Well, companies such as Verizon and AT&T are the ones who know how to build such an infrastructure, and they would probably balk at the idea of being cannibalized.
There's really no need to bring some rationale to the plan, as the administration itself has poured cold water on the fundamental idea. Multiple White House officials have confirmed to Recode that the memo behind all this controversy is dated, stressing that a staff member merely floated it around, and that it wasn't a reflection of Trump's plans.
Market, Not The Government
For one, it's supposed to be the Federal Communications Commission's ballpark, and its chairman, Ajit Pai, immediately spoke out against the idea, vehemently stressing that the market should drive innovation, not the government.
"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."
If there's anything to be gleaned from the whole controversy, it's the administration's panic for Chinese interference. For years, many Republicans have feared that the rise of Chinese companies in the United States, such as Huawei, could mean that China might be leveraging its emergence in the U.S. tech market so as to spy on U.S. citizens. A deal involving AT&T selling Huawei-branded phones fell through earlier this month, but no clear reason was given.