The White House is re-affirming its commitment to allow the private sector to remain in control of pending fifth generation wireless networks, after the Trump campaign previously embraced a government role in managing the burgeoning technology.
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“There will be a national security piece, without question, but it seems to me the way we’re doing things is the right way and we’ll continue that,” top economic advisor Larry Kudlow told attendees at an industry conference on Thursday. “The private sector will figure things out far better than the government sector. You’re far ahead of us, you always are."
Kudlow’s comments were backed up by a White House official, who said the Trump administration is “supportive of a private sector, free enterprise approach.”
“We believe the U.S. is winning the race to 5G with record deployments in cities across the United States,” the official said.
The U.S. and China are locked in a bitter battle to be the first to roll-out national 5G networks which promise broadband speeds without a hard-wired connection. The technology is expected to underscore the most significant new innovations in the coming decade, including remote surgery and driverless cars.
The wireless industry has long chastised any significant government involvement in the development of 5G and immediately criticized a leaked 2018 memo from the White House that detailed how the government could build out the national network.
Those concerns were reignited in March when the Trump 2020 campaign indicated it would support the federal government maintaining control of 5G airwaves and sharing it with wireless carriers, part of an attempt to earn support from rural votes who often suffer from the lack of investments by major carriers in less-populated regions of the U.S.
“A 5G wholesale market would drive down costs and provide access to millions of Americans who are currently under served,” Kayleigh McEnany, national press secretary for Trump’s 2020 campaign, said in a statement at the time. “This is in line with President Trump’s agenda to benefit all Americans, regardless of geography."
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A campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to FOX Business’ request for comment on whether the stance has changed. After the initial statement, McEnany then said there is "no daylight between the White House and the campaign" on 5G.
“The White House sets the policy on 5G and all issues," she told media outlets.
Along with industry opposition, Federal Communications Commission official Brendan Carr blasted the “China-style nationalization” proposal.
“The U.S. won the race to 4G and secured billions of dollars in growth for the U.S. economy by relying on America’s exceptional free-market values. We must double down on that winning playbook instead of copying China’s, and that is what we at the Federal Communications Commission have been doing for the past two years,” he wrote in an op-ed.
Earlier this week, Verizon launched its 5G service in Minneapolis and Chicago. T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint are also expected to launch 5G networks in 2019.