Concerns Abound Over Federal Government Nationalizing 5G Technology

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A broad array of concerns surround arguments for and against nationalizing 5G connectivity technology, including defense against foreign governments.

A young man enters a 5G connectivity booth at a technology conference.

Should the government take over development for 5G internet connections? There’s a compelling case in favor of doing so.

Details of a leaked memo and PowerPoint presentation were published on the news site Axios on Sunday that explain why the government may make a proposed 5G network across the country a nationalized commodity. The biggest reason isn't ease of use or fair pricing, but rather an emphasis on national security.

5G is the fifth generation of mobile internet connection, which will make use of the internet available in ways much faster than its current standard (most Americans currently have access to 4G connection).

Without use of a Wi-Fi connection, 5G would allow users incredible speed when browsing the internet or using smartphones for net-related tasks. It would also enhance technology for driverless cars and even remote surgeries in the near future. Such technologies could prevent foreseeable accidents that have already been witnessed by a skeptical consumer base.

Not everyone is on board with the proposed idea, including Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai.

“I oppose any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network,” Pai said in a statement Monday morning, stating that his opposition stems from his belief that “the market, not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment.”

But there are real concerns over whether control of 5G should be in the hands of private sector companies or the government, which can monitor and respond to outside threats more readily — including the possibility of Chinese spying, the memo stated. The United States would suffer “a permanent disadvantage to China in the information domain” if it does not, according to the document.

It’s not just members of President Donald Trump’s administration who are considering plans to nationalize 5G. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) also signaled his belief that any internet connectivity programs in the future ought to consider every possibility when it comes to national security.

There are “serious concerns relating to the Chinese government’s influence into network equipment markets,” Warner said.

There are some additional concerns that need to be hashed out. A nationalized 5G network could increase surveillance across the nation, essentially making the private lives of citizens more accessible to the U.S. government itself. If a 5G network is indeed run by the government, transparent safeguards would have to be put in place in order to ensure privacy rights are maintained.

Given this administration’s propensity for surveillance of the general populace, that worry must be addressed before any decision is made by the president or approved by Congress. With that said, national security concerns must also be addressed, ensuring that the private lives of Americans aren't interfered with by any foreign state as well.

A balanced position between both issues needs to be found, one that will adequately address and protect the privacy rights of American citizens from any outside actor.

Banner / Thumbnail : Steve Marcus/Reuters

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