Conservatives Unite to Send a Message to Congress: Don’t Nationalize 5G 

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Posted on Wednesday, October 7th, 2020, 8:00 AM PERMALINK

Following the Department of Defense (DoD) Request for Information on a government-managed process for 5G development and action, Americans for Tax Reform led a group of 43 center-right organizations, think tanks, and policy experts in a coalition letter thanking  U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD) for his leadership and support for the American competitive approach to 5G deployment. Recently, Sen. Thune along with 18 Republican senators urged President Trump to bolster private-sector deployment of 5G after it was reported the DoD will consider a novel and untested method of sharing government-owned spectrum.  

In a letter sent to Sen. Thune, the group expresses concern with rumors that the DoD already has a Request for Proposal it plans to greenlight, and highlights that nationalizing our communications infrastructure from scratch would be slow and at the expense of taxpayers.  

“Taxpayers should not foot the bill for something that the private sector is already committed to doing through a free market approach. America’s private companies have invested decades of research, spent tens of billions of dollars, and are already deploying 5G across the country at a breakneck pace,” the letter states “It makes no sense to think that the DoD, starting from zero, could deploy these networks faster or more efficiently.It would cost tens of billions of taxpayer dollars and take decades to build a network from scratch to nationalize our communications system.” 

Additionally, the group argued that “the implications of the DoD RFI are counter to the Administration’s recent actions” and that “a government-run 5G backbone, wholesale network, or whatever name it goes by, is nationalization of private business.” The letter goes on to cite other countries, specifically Russia, South Africa, and Mexico, that have experimented with nationalized networks and failed, and concludes by urging Congress to continue efforts to roll back any efforts to nationalize 5G development and deployment.  

The full text of the letter with footnotes and signatories can be found HERE and letter text and signatories can be found below.  

Dear Senator Thune, 

We write to thank you for your recent letter supporting the American competitive approach to 5G deployment, which is private sector driven and private sector led.  We agree that nationalizing 5G and experimenting with untested models for 5G deployment is not the way the United States wins the 5G race. Deployment of 5G should not rely on the government but should focus on unleashing the private sector and the free market.  

We too are concerned with the Department of Defense Request for Information on a government-managed process for 5G development and are alarmed with how quickly it is proceeding.  Even more disturbing are the rumors that the RFI was only for show and that the DoD already has an RFP it plans to greenlight. 

Taxpayers should not foot the bill for something that the private sector is already committed to doing through a free market approach. America’s private companies have invested decades of research, spent tens of billions of dollars, and are already deploying 5G across the country at a breakneck pace. There are three U.S. companies – AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile – who have spent billions in recent years building national 5G networks, and another, DISH, which is also building a network. The idea of government entering the 5G business has been rejected by policymakers on both sides of the aisle.  More mid-band spectrum is all they need to turbo charge deployment. It makes no sense to think that the DoD, starting from zero, could deploy these networks faster or more efficiently. It would cost tens of billions of taxpayer dollars and take decades to build a network from scratch to nationalize our communications system.  

For example, we are still waiting for the final results of a spectrum sharing plan that began 10 years ago in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum band.  CBRS is 150 MHz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz to 3.7 GHz range that was originally used by the Navy and some commercial satellite providers. The FCC designated the band for sharing among three tiers of users: incumbent users, licensed users and unlicensed users. The auction for licensed use began in July 2020 and concluded in September 2020. The carriers who won these licenses are in the beginning stages of building out their 5G networks. There is no reason to pull the rug out from under them now.  

The implications of the DoD RFI are counter to the Administration’s recent actions. The President has repeatedly said that the private sector should lead the U.S. in 5G innovation.  In August 2020, President Trump announced that 100 megahertz of contiguous, coast-to-coast mid-band spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band would be made available for commercial 5G deployment. DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy, commented, “With this additional 100 MHz, the U.S. now has a contiguous 530 megahertz of mid-band spectrum from 3450-3980 MHz to enable higher capacity 5G networks.”  Here, the Administration and DoD collaborated to ensure no compromise to military preparedness, while also ensuring the free market, competitive U.S. economy can drive America’s winning position in the 5G race.  

A government-run 5G backbone, wholesale network, or whatever name it goes by, is nationalization of private business. Spectrum sharing is something that must be considered as the nation moves forward with private networks, but it is not a reason for a government takeover. For a government-run network to happen, the federal government would have to either renege on licenses granted to private users or hoard spectrum at the expense of private industry. Either approach would upend well-established licensure policies at the FCC that establish certainty in operating and maintaining complex networks and create massive unnecessary delays to launching 5G networks. Moreover, the government should not be in the business of “competing” with private industry. That’s the business model of China and Russia, not the United States. 

This concept has failed in other countries. Other countries experimented with nationalized networks and these attempted have failed. For example, in 2011, Russia gave away spectrum to a company that promised lower prices and sweeping deployments via a wholesale network built with Huawei equipment. Three years later, that company gave up after reaching barely a quarter of Russia.  Meanwhile, in that same time, the U.S. industry built out LTE to nearly 96 percent of Americans.  Similar experiments in South Africa and Mexico have also failed.  

Spectrum does not belong to the military. If after discovering new efficiencies, the DoD has discovered ways to put spectrum allocated to it to better use, the government should clear the spectrum while making sure military needs are still met. Spectrum sharing between government and private users, like the CBRS band, or relocating government users and then auctioning the available spectrum with proceeds going to the American people, are both viable and tested. Military users should not build a network simply for financial gain including some kind of revenue sharing. The DoD sits on billions of dollars of spectrum assets without accounting for it on their balance sheets – if the DoD has excess capacity, it should be auctioned for the benefit of the American taxpayer.    

The best approach toward collaboration between DoD and the private sector is cleared licensed spectrum for flexible use or coordinated sharing on bands among federal users and private licensed and unlicensed users, with proceeds going to the taxpayers. Nationalization or excessive regulatory intervention stalled other nations in the race to 4G. America won that race and the competitive process soared ahead, leading to economic gains for in networking, standards and technology, and eventually prompting the creation of the App Economy.  The race to 5G will be won if the private sector once again leads the way and the government does not get in the way. 

Thank you for your leadership on this critically important issue. We hope you will continue your efforts to slow down the process on this disruptive proposal and to roll back any efforts to nationalize 5G development and deployment.  

Respectfully, 

Grover G. Norquist 

President 

Americans for Tax Reform 
 

Douglas Holtz-Eakin* 

President 

American Action Forum 

 

Jennifer Huddleston* 

Director of Technology & Innovation Policy 

American Action Forum 

 

Phil Kerpen 

President 

American Commitment 

 

Daniel Schneider 

Executive Director 

American Conservative Union 

 

Krisztina Pusok, Ph.D. 

Director of Policy and Research 

American Consumer Institute 

 

Stephen Pociask 

President and CEO 

American Consumer Institute 

 

Brent Wm. Gardner 

Chief Government Affairs Officer 

Americans for Prosperity 

 

Andrew F. Quinlan 

President 

Center for Freedom and Prosperity 

 

Jeffrey Mazzella 

President 

Center for Individual Freedom 

 

Tom Schatz 

President 

Council for Citizens Against  

Government Waste 

 

Ashley Baker 

Director of Public Policy 

The Committee for Justice 

 

Jessica Melugin 

Associate Director 

Center for Technology & Innovation 

Competitive Enterprise Institute 

 

Jim Edwards 

Executive Director 

Conservatives for Property Rights 

 

Matthew Kandrach 

President 

Consumer Action for a Strong Economy 

 

Katie McAuliffe 

Executive Director 

Digital Liberty 

 

Jason Pye 

Vice President of Legislative Affairs 

FreedomWorks 

 

George Landrith 

President 

Frontiers of Freedom 

 

Jessica Anderson 

Executive Director 

Heritage Action for America 

 

Mario H. Lopez 

President 

Hispanic Leadership Fund 

 

Carrie Lukas 

President 

Independent Women's Forum 

 

Heather R. Higgins 

CEO 

Independent Women's Voice 

 

Bartlett D. Cleland 

Executive Director 

Innovation Economy Institute 

 

Wayne T. Brough, PhD. 

President 

Innovation Defense Foundation 

 

Ian Adams 

Executive Director 

International Center for Law and Economics 

 

Tom Giovanetti 

President 

Institute for Policy Innovation 

 

Silvia Elaluf-Calderwood* 

Professor 

The iSchool at Syracuse University 

 

Andrea O'Sullivan 

Director, Center for Technology & Innovation 

James Madison Institute 

 

Seton Motley 

President 

Less Government 

 

James Czerniawski 

Policy Analyst, Tech and Innovation 

Libertas Institute 

 

Zach Graves 

Head of Policy 

Lincoln Network 

 

Brandon Arnold 

Executive Vice President 

National Taxpayers Union 

 

Eric Peterson 

Director  

Pelican Center for Technology & Innovation 

 

Lorenzo Montanari 

Executive Director 

Property Rights Alliance 

 

Jeffery Westling 

Technology Resident Fellow 

R Street Institute 

 

Karen Kerrigan 

President & CEO 

Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council 

 

James L. Martin 

Founder/Chairman 

60 Plus Association 

 

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis 

President 

60 Plus Association 

 

 

David Williams 

President 

Taxpayer Protection Alliance 

 

James E. Dunstan  

General Counsel 

TechFreedom 

 

Roslyn Layton, PhD 

President Elect  

Transition Team for  

Federal Communications Commission 

2016-2017 

 

Mark A. Jamison, PhD 

President Elect  

Transition Team for  

Federal Communications Commission 

2016-2017 

 

Casey Given 

Executive Director 

Young Voices 

 

 

 

*organization provided for identification purposes only 

Photo Credit: gregwest98

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