The next generation of broadband 5G network could be nationalized under Trump
The newest, fastest mobile network to replace the current 4G network in the next few years might get a government takeover. Axios obtained what appears to be a National Security Council PowerPoint presentation shown to the Trump administration. It lays out a plan to put the government in charge of building — and paying for — a nationwide broadband network.
The report bore the subtitle “The Eisenhower National Highway System for the Information Age,” referencing a Dwight D. Eisenhower-era federal project that built the nation’s federally controlled system of roadways. The use of that title suggests this is viewed as a project on a similar scale for President Trump: Internet and mobile services could become like our highway system.
Mobile networks have, for the most part, been privately controlled since the broadband technology was created. Some cities already offer broadband internet access, paid for by local governments in some way. But this plan would take over ongoing 5G development from all private companies and put the government in control.
The average American home broadband has download speeds of 17.2 megabits-per-second. On a 5G network, those speeds will reach close to 1 gigabit-per-second. T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T are all working on future 5G network access.
An alternate proposal from the presentation pits wireless providers against each other to build separate 5G networks. Axios reported that this idea is considered a lengthier and more costly option, but would mean “less commercial disruption” to the industry. A big motivator for federal control of the network seems to be threats and competition from China and others. “China has achieved a dominant position in the manufacture and operation of network infrastructure,” and “China is the dominant malicious actor in the Information Domain,” a slide reads. It’s unusual that President Trump would be on board with a federal takeover of a historically private industry.
His campaign and first year in office have been about de-regulation and reducing government influence on business. The nationalized network laid out in the proposal would be built in the next three years. That seems ambitious considering the government is competing with big service providers that are already moving quickly to bring the super-fast network to customers.