Nationalize 5G network?

Michaela Bush – Columnist

Clarion, Pa.

Some may have heard about Verizon and AT&T’s plans to deploy 5G networks, which would far surpass the speed of the current systems used to run our cell phones and laptops.  However, on Jan. 28 the Trump administration announced consideration of nationalizing the new 5G network.   

An article titled “Trump Team Considers Nationalizing 5G Network” from Axios explains that the move to nationalize the faster network would be made as a safeguard against China’s technological advances and therefore increased muscle for attacking our infrastructure, which involves cyber-attacks, ransomware and malware takeovers.  Their proposition includes two options:  The U.S. government creates and pays for the network, or wireless providers such as AT&T or Verizon would build their own 5G networks and compete with one another.  A more in-depth at each option is needed.    

If the U.S. government funds and builds the network themselves, the new infrastructure could be released in the next three years.  However, some concerns are being raised over the government’s incredibly short timeline for such a large task, and the proposed nationalization of the 5G network only covers part of the system, allowing for private companies to build as well.  The administration likens these plans to “the 21st century equivalent of the Eisenhower National Highway System.”  If this method is employed, mobile networks would be given equal access to it, but they would pay a ‘rental fee’ to use it.   

Conversely, recruiting help from wireless providers to build the 5G networks would allow the companies who have already begun rolling out their plans for the networks to continue their work.  It would also allow for “less commercial disruption to the wireless industry” compared to the alternate option.  However, they would not be able to integrate the safeguards necessary to combat foreign threats “like a centralized network could.”   

A presentation given by the administration suggests that the U.S. has to build this technology quickly because of China having the upper hand in technology, infrastructure, and Artificial Intelligence (AI).  In a technological arms race like the one the U.S. and China are involved in, creating the best technology quickly is not only a way to improve our own security, but also to be seen as superior.  Of course, the people typically benefit from their ‘better and faster’ innovations.  However, why is something like a faster network integral to protecting our data and computers online from hackers and widespread cyber-attacks?   

The Trump administration suggests that it “create[s] a secure pathway for emerging technologies like self-driving cars and virtual reality, [but it also] combats Chinese threats to America’s economic and cyber security…this effort could help inoculate developing countries against Chinese neo-colonial behavior.”  The notes from the presentation released on Axios suggest that creating this 5G network would create jobs and economic jobs, but also improve rural broadband–a sorely-needed improvement at that.  Their plan is to complete the network within three years if the government-built network is given the green light.  The option of allowing mobile networks to build their own systems would mean that the 5G networks would not be available as soon, and the expense of building the new infrastructure would be higher. Additionally, a lot of discussion and debate is still going on within the administration on whether or not to roll out the nationalized 5G network plans.   

There is a lot to consider about both of the infrastructure options laid out by the Trump administration.  On one hand, government involvement is not always the best thing.  Sometimes it bogs things down and opens up doors for government overreach.  Plus, such plans may currently be ill received in light of the recent net neutrality changes.  On the other hand, safety from the always-growing threat of foreign hacking is crucial, and generic anti-virus software just does not cut it for protecting our information as well as the information in the government sectors anymore.  Finally, it is also important to note that these new plans will likely change several times over before they are set forward in motion.

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