Here’s something all Americans should agree on: the United States should lead the 5G revolution.
There’s only one way to do that, and it’s the same approach that has made our country the most prosperous on earth: Unleash the power of the free market. We’re on the verge of letting that happen, but unfortunately, some are trying to throw up roadblocks. For the sake of America, they have to be stopped.
There’s no doubt that 5G-speed internet is a game-changer. It’s up to 100 times faster than the current technology and will spur a new round of innovation unlike anything we’ve seen to date. It will make Americans’ lives easier, enable American companies to create more jobs and exports, and leave America as a whole even more prosperous and filled with opportunity.
The potential is astounding. One study pegs the benefits of 5G at more than 22 million jobs and more than $13 trillion in economic benefits. The country that leads in 5G will get the lion’s share of this wealth.
America should be out front. And we will be, under a praiseworthy plan from the Federal Communications Commission.
Late last year, FCC chairman Ajit Pai proposed opening up “mid-band spectrum,” which includes radio frequencies for the Wi-Fi that 5G needs to work. The proposal would ensure the spectrum’s current license users could keep their frequencies, while letting unlicensed users fill in the unused gaps between them.
By freeing the space for widespread use, the FCC is opening the door to the kind of investment and innovation that will bring 5G speeds to every home and business in the country.
The FCC unanimously approved this free-market solution. Now it’s in the middle of the legally mandated comment period, during which people can express their support or opposition. Yet a small but vocal number of companies and public officials are now urging the FCC to stop in its tracks at the 11th hour.
Their arguments are usually well-meaning, but ultimately they’re wrong and put the FCC’s plan for American 5G domination at risk.
One concern is that the current spectrum users will be harmed. While a lot of the spectrum is unused, big chunks of it are currently licensed to utilities, broadcasters, wireless carriers and the Pentagon, among others.
The good news is the FCC plan protects licensed users across the board and that Wi-Fi has a proven history of sharing spectrum without causing harm. Licensed and unlicensed uses can share spectrum without ever overlapping or otherwise hurting each other.
The Pentagon itself has said it has no concerns with this arrangement. As Secretary of Defense Mark Esper recently said, sharing the space is “the best way to move forward so we can meet the economic priority with the national security priority.”
The other concern is that the federal government is giving away a valuable resource for free. According to this view, the FCC should demand a pretty penny for the spectrum, auctioning it off to highest bidders as it soon will for additional 5G-friendly airwaves.
But that would require many of the more than 100,000 current spectrum users to move or give up the frequencies they depend on. Understandably, none of them want to move and no one — including taxpayers — wants to pay for them to move to another spectrum band, a process that would cost billions.
Starting an auction process from scratch could take years, meaning America would fall behind in the 5G race. It would also put consumers at the mercy of mobile carriers, which want to avoid a free market and instead buy their way to victory. Not only that, mobile carriers have already said they will only release a fraction of the spectrum for 5G Wi-Fi use.
The result would be an even slower and smaller 5G rollout that would leave large swaths of rural America behind.
That’s the last thing America needs. We’re on the verge of a huge leap forward in internet technology, one that will benefit the lives of every family in the country.
We should be getting government out of the way, not making it a barrier or letting big businesses lobby and buy their way to victory.
On 5G, the free market will deliver for America, if only we let it.