Senators to White House: Nationalizing 5G Could Jeopardize National Security

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) argued to administration officials that nationalizing 5G networks in an era of evolving cyber threats could unnecessarily jeopardize economic and national security.

Axios reported at the end of January that, according to an obtained PowerPoint memo, “Trump national security officials are considering an unprecedented federal takeover of a portion of the nation’s mobile network to guard against China.”

One option outlined in the memo “would lead to federal control of a part of the economy that today is largely controlled by private wireless providers,” Axios reported. “In the memo, the Trump administration likens it to ‘the 21st century equivalent of the Eisenhower National Highway System’ and says it would create a ‘new paradigm’ for the wireless industry by the end of Trump’s current term.”

In their Feb. 9 letter to White House chief economic advisor Gary Cohn and National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Cortez Masto and Cruz wrote that 5G fifth generation mobile technology is one of the few issues in Congress with “the ability to bridge the partisan divide and unite both Republicans and Democrats.”

“That is why we are writing you today to request information on the administration’s effort to help facilitate the timely and efficient deployment of 5G technology in coordination with the private sector,” they wrote. “…It’s worth noting that of the $275 billion investment [from telecom operators], Accenture expects $93 billion to be spent on construction, which will put hardworking Americans to work as we expand our nation’s mobile broadband infrastructure.”

“Deploying 5G networks is also vital to America’s global competitiveness. The United States has been the global leader in mobile broadband since surpassing Japan in 2009 by securing the highest number of 3G subscribers. Since then we have maintained our global first-place position throughout the deployment of 4G networks but are now being challenged by China, the European Union, Japan, South Korea and others in the hyper-competitive race to 5G. Having a global competitive advantage in mobile broadband has spurred domestic economic growth, ensured that investment in entrepreneurial innovation has remained in the United States and is why we can’t come up short in this global race.”

Cruz and Cortez Masto argued that “if the United States is to maintain its global leadership in mobile broadband both Congress and the federal government will need to ensure that a new pipeline of spectrum is made available and it will also require our state and local governments and wireless industry to work collaboratively as 5G networks will involve the deployment of 10 to 100 times more antenna locations than 3G and 4G networks.”

“Furthermore, it is imperative to our national and economic security that 5G networks in the United States are safe and secure by utilizing dynamic network security to ensure maximum protection. U.S. wireless carriers currently see billions of security incidents each day and have experience in responding to these ever-evolving cyber threats,” they added. “We believe that the private sector is best equipped to build, deploy and secure 5G networks, and that any proposals that consider nationalizing these networks will only have a chilling effect on private investment and result in a radical shift in the management of our nation’s telecommunication’s networks.”

“The United States has set itself apart by having a telecommunications sector with robust competition that results in greater consumer choice. As your Administration considers ways to ensure that the United States wins the global race to 5G, we stand ready to work with your Administration to develop free market proposals that enhance competition and protect our economic and national security interests. Please provide us a more complete picture of what you are planning, and can do, to help us all reach the goal of a more connected and safer world.”

The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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