FCC chair opposes nationalizing 5G network

FCC chair opposes nationalizing 5G network
© Greg Nash

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is opposing a reported White House proposal to nationalize a 5G network currently being developed by the private sector.

“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,” Pai said in a statement Monday morning.

Axios reported on Sunday night that the National Security Council had floated a government takeover of the mobile network as a defensive measure against China. That option is sure to rile up the telecom industry, which has been touting its progress on the next-generation network for months.

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Pai, who is held in high regard by the industry, argued that the government’s only role in 5G development should be to set rules for the marketplace that would encourage innovation.

“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,” Pai said.

The other four FCC commissioners, including both Democrats, quickly echoed Pai's concerns about the reported plan

“The United States’ leadership in the deployment of 5G is critical and must be done right," Mignon Clyburn, one of the Democrats on the commission, said in a statement. "Localities have a central role to play; the technical expertise possessed by industry should be utilized; and cybersecurity must be a core consideration. A network built by the federal government, I fear, does not leverage the best approach needed for our nation to win the 5G race.”

"There is a worldwide race to lead in #5G and other nations are poised to win," Jessica Rosenworcel, the other Democrat, wrote on Twitter. "But the remedy proposed here really misses the mark."

Updated at 12:43 p.m.