Opinion

Even Biden Won’t Screw Up 5G Development – Probably

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Posted: Dec 28, 2020 10:43 AM
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Even Biden Won’t Screw Up 5G Development – Probably

Source: AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File

Even as critics worry what an incoming Biden administration could do to harm the communication gains of the past four years at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), most agree that 5G development will likely continue largely unimpeded.

The likely next chair of the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel, will almost certainly push for the reimplementation of Title II rules on internet service providers – despite no evidence they did anything but harm communication growth.  The good news is that Rosenworcel has generally been in agreement with Republican leadership when it comes to the importance of the deployment of 5G.

That includes support of the recent spectrum auctions that will free up 270 meghertz in the so-called C-band to be used for the next generation of wireless technology. Vox noted that different federal agencies have fought over spectrum – including the battle between the FCC and the Department of Transportation over spectrum allocated but seldom used for car safety technology. The media outlet speculates that “while the current FCC is already working on this effort [to free up more spectrum], some think the Biden administration will promote the inter-agency cooperation necessary to do it quickly.”

S&P Global notes that both Republican and Democratic leadership have been in favor of conducting spectrum auctions over the past three decades, with both parties seeing the importance in recent years of freeing up bandwidth for the next generation of wireless technology.

Chris Lewis, president and CEO of left-leaning nonprofit Public Knowledge, told the agency that at a Democratic-led FCC there is “always more work to do on managing spectrum policy, to ensure that innovation is preserved and there's competition in the marketplace."

Seth L. Cooper, director of policy studies and a senior fellow at the Free State Foundation, noted recently that the FCC under both the Trump and Obama administrations has looked toward the future, generally refraining from rules to prolong legacy internet services.

“Whatever its composition in 2021, the Commission should adhere to that same pro-consumer, pro-investment approach and keep its policy focus on promoting deployment of new network facilities like fiber broadband and 5G networks,” he wrote.

During the Trump administration, a group of Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, Brad Parscale, Karl Rove and Peter Thiel, have pitched a plan to use spectrum held by the Department of Defense to create an open-access wireless network under the banner of Rivada Networks. Critics, including the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), fret that the plan reeks of cronyism and could actually be counterproductive to 5G growth.

In its agenda for the first 100 days of the Biden administration, U.S. Telecom: The Broadband Association, requests that the incoming president halt DOD plans to establish its own commercial 5G network.

“Rather than working at odds with our nation’s facilities-based broadband partners – which have the unique financial, operating and technical wherewithal…and the needed economies of scale to get the job done – [the administration should] continue to work shoulder to shoulder with us to advance our nation’s security and prosperity by quickly repurposing for consumer use as much government spectrum as possible through battle-tested innovative auction processes led by the FCC,” the organization wrote.

But the Wall Street Journal notes that not all is rosy with the incoming administration and 5G. Under Rosenworcel, the FCC is likely to roll back rules that limit the amount of fees that local governments can charge telecom companies for 5G cell sites. As TPA previously reported, low-fee cities like Indianapolis saw quicker 5G growth than cities like San Jose, which charged onerous rates for small cell siting.  

The new regime of the FCC should continue the work of outgoing Chairman Ajit Pai to facilitate the growth of 5G. The procedures in place are working so there’s no reason not to continue the status quo.

Johnny Kampis is a senior fellow and investigative reporter for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.