President Donald Trump on Thursday told technology and telecom executives the government will tackle federal regulations they consider too restrictive but stopped short of announcing any specific policies aimed at their industries.
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The White House meeting drew executives from two dozen companies, including AT&T Inc., Honeywell International Inc. and General Electric Co. The discussions focused on sectors subject to complex government oversight, such as wireless broadband, and others still too new for fully developed rules, like airborne drones.
"We want our innovators to dream big," the president said. "We want them to create new companies and to create lots of jobs." He criticized federal regulations that are "so bad, so out of line."
The president congratulated GE chief executive Jeff Immelt on his recently announced retirement plans and congratulated AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson -- who was seated next to the president -- for having done "really a top job."
The president didn't address his administration's oversight of corporate mergers -- one persistent focus for the telecom sector -- though some attendees have big deals awaiting the government's blessing. AT&T last year announced an $85 billion takeover of Time Warner Inc., owner of CNN and Turner's cable networks. CenturyLink Inc. CEO Glen Post attended as his company seeks regulatory approval for a $25 billion merger with rival Level 3 Communications Inc.
Thursday's meeting instead focused on the barriers to investments in technology and network infrastructure. Much of the chatter dealt with the fifth-generation wireless technology that phone companies are developing to support faster connections to cars, appliances and industrial systems. Mr. Stephenson touted the importance of the 5G network's rollout, saying, "If we get this right, we probably lead the world for another era in terms of broadband."
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"Everybody was zeroing in on the same thing, and that's about speed," Verizon Communications Inc. executive John Stratton said. "If you don't remove those barriers and friction to deployment, you slow the pace of investment."
Mr. Stratton said much of the policy work discussed Thursday was already in the works at the Federal Communications Commission and on Capitol Hill. But, he added, it was "helpful to have the guy at the top taking an interest in your industry."
The event piggybacked off another White House tech summit on Monday. Leaders from Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp. and others volunteered their help modernizing government IT systems, though White House official's comments on their initiatives shed little light on what policies, if any, the administration plans to change.
The president also promised Wednesday that his infrastructure spending proposal for Congress would carry support for rural broadband, a potential boon for CenturyLink's largely rural customer base. But Thursday's meeting included little mention of how the government would fund that goal.
Write to Drew FitzGerald at firstname.lastname@example.org and Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
June 22, 2017 14:42 ET (18:42 GMT)