President Donald J. Trump is a big proponent of an America First economic policy, yet the U.S. is falling behind China in the race to roll out 5G technologies. In a tech-savvy world where the United States dominates in providing the services of giants like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and Facebook, for some reason Trump's Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has not received the memo that 5G is the key to the future. Commerce is sitting on applications to release spectrum to help roll out new avenues to increase the speed of Internet infrastructure.
For those unfamiliar with the specifics of "5G" that stands for the fifth generation of network technology. MIT's Technology Review described 5G in a post on December 18, 2018 as "unlike previous generations of mobile technology, which tended to introduce a single novel feature for users (1G let you walk and talk, 2G let you send texts, 3G got you onto the internet, and 4G let you stream), 5G promises a whole suite of dramatic improvements. It uses entirely new wireless infrastructure to achieve speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G and promises to nearly eliminate any processing delays. It will also kick-start the internet of things since it was designed to connect billions of machines, appliances, and sensors at low cost without draining their batteries." One problem is that China is way ahead of the U.S. in the deployment of these cutting-edge technologies and one reason why is that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency within the Commerce Department, is sitting on applications to release spectrum to deploy these technologies. The bureaucracy works quicker in China because the government owns the telecommunications companies and they have no red tape.
The 5G rollout is bottlenecked over at Ross' Commerce Department before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the final stop for applications, can act. According to the NTIA's website the agency is supposed to be "expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, and ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for continued innovation and economic growth." This is not happening and the NTIA is actually slowing the use of spectrum. Bureaucracy and staffers at Commerce are sitting on applications that hurt U.S. economic growth while putting us behind China in the race for 5G.
The FCC has proven to be pro-innovation and the repeal of so-called "Net Neutrality" rules were a good step in that effort. Chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has been a supporter of innovation and he has taken steps to aid the expedited rollout of 5G technologies. The longer Commerce sits on applications, that delay is functionally a denial. One Commerce official, as reported by Politico, Earl Comstock was a strong opponent of the repeal of President Obama's Net Neutrality rules. "A top Commerce Department official is quietly pushing for President Donald Trump to support a congressional effort to restore the net neutrality rules, John reports this morning, citing five sources familiar with the matter. Earl Comstock, a high-ranking deputy to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, is advising that Trump back a Democratic resolution that would reverse last year's FCC repeal, a move that would put Trump in direct opposition to Ajit Pai, his hand-picked FCC chairman." Some worry that Obama holdovers are the hold up on freeing up unused spectrum.
The big winner in this bureaucratic battle is China. Wired reported on June 6, 2019, that "Technical standards for the next generation of wireless services aren't even finalized, yet the US and China are already locked in a crucial race to be the first country to deploy a so-called 5G network. Or at least that's what both the US government and the wireless industry say. 'The United States will not get a second chance to win the global 5G race,' Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO of the wireless industry group CTIA, warned in April, when the group released a report concluding that the US trails China and South Korea in preparing for 5G (fifth generation) networks. If that doesn't change, the report warns, the US economy will suffer." One way to expedite the process is to get the Department of Commerce out of the way and expedite approval of the use of new spectrum to deploy 5G.
President Trump has been a strong supporter of regulatory reform and one easy way to reform regulations is to get good people in government to apply regulations in a timely manner. Trump said in his 2019 State of the Union speech "In our drive to make Washington accountable, we have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in history."
The president might also want to take a hard look at the people at the Department of Commerce who are the personification of the DC Swamp and are doing everything they can, through inaction, to not Make America Great Again. One way to beat China in our current economic war is to roll out new technologies quicker and to beat China on the economic field of play.
Jerry Rogers is the founder of Capitol Allies, and the co-host of The LangerCast on the RELM Network. Twitter: @CapitolAllies.