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Trump Team Considers Nationalizing America's 5G Network (axios.com) 383

JoeyRox writes: "Trump national security officials are considering an unprecedented federal takeover of a portion of the nation's mobile network to guard against China, according to sensitive documents obtained by Axios." This is based on a PowerPoint presentation Axios has in their possession. Two options are described -- a national 5G network funded and built by the Federal government, or a mix of 5G networks built by existing wireless providers. A source suggests the first option is preferred and essential to protect against competition from China and "bad actors". The presentation suggests that a government-built network would then be leased out to carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile.
The PowerPoint presentation was produced by a senior National Security Council official, and argues that the move is necessary because "China has achieved a dominant position in the manufacture and operation of network infrastructure," and "China is the dominant malicious actor in the Information Domain."

It also suggests America could export its secure 5G technology to protect its allies, and "Eventually this effort could help inoculate developing countries against Chinese neo-colonial behavior."
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Trump Team Considers Nationalizing America's 5G Network

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  • Good (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @09:35PM (#56023925)

    This would in theory make carriers compete for customers everywhere, and increase signal availability and quality for everyone.

    • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

      by GerryGilmore ( 663905 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @09:52PM (#56024009)
      I agree! This nonsense of selling spectrum to the deepest pocketed existing carrier should end. Let the government build out the network and lease - at RAND pricing - capacity to those carriers ready, willing and able to do so in any given area. I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Capitalist Pig(TM) and proud of it, but - you know - pigs get fat and hogs (existing carriers) get slaughtered. As they deserve to be...
      • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bigwheel ( 2238516 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @10:18PM (#56024119)

        While I normally cringe at the having the government in control of things, this seems like a good idea to me too. Information routes, like roadways, should be something that the government provides to its citizens, rather than having much of the country at the whim of one or two carriers, who happen to own and control the spectrum. Plus, it pulls some of the Net Neutrality concerns off of the table.

        It will be interesting to see how they plan to pay for it.

        • Re:Good (Score:4, Insightful)

          by rickb928 ( 945187 ) on Monday January 29, 2018 @09:30AM (#56026211) Homepage Journal

          "something that the government provides to its citizens"

          Our federal government was instituted specifically on the premise that it granted nothing, but was intended to recognizedcertain inalienable rights.

          Now we're discussing how our federal government should 'give' to citizens that which we, citizens, are beginning to consider to be 'rights'. Like information channels.

          No, this is wrong. In fact, what we think of as 'rights' should be inalienable, and the Internet is not such a thing. Turn off the electricity and discover what 'rights' actually are.

          Now, fairness and honesty might compel us to ensure that the airwaves licensed to commercial enterprises for the purposes of information delivery be used in the public interest, and that be examined periodically, those enterprises be held to account for their performance, and perhaps sometimes changes made to encourage use for the public good, but to describe these as 'rights' goes a step too far. And if you've just thought that our federal government perhaps should not be in that business, well, you've got a good point. A good discussion to have. We might change things.

    • Re:Good (Score:4, Insightful)

      by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @09:54PM (#56024021)
      Sounds more like something that will be another big government project boondoggle, but nonetheless a nice way for Trump and fellow Congress cronies to funnel money to some of their friends and backers to build out this network.
      • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 28, 2018 @10:50PM (#56024261)

        Sounds more like something that will be another big government project boondoggle, but nonetheless a nice way for Trump and fellow Congress cronies to funnel money to some of their friends and backers to build out this network.

        I hate Trump more than most, but this seems on the face a good idea. That is not to say the federal government won't screw it up.

        In short, spectrum is finite. You want phones to be as simple as possible to cut costs, so having everyone share the same hopefully fairly large set of spectrum makes sense. They just need to have every company leasing out fractions of cells on an as needed basis. You might need an additional penalty of you leased space for a month and never used it, just to avoid companies tying up spectrum.

        Spectrum in remote areas might be cheap, or possibly more expensive, if it is used in place of real broadband.

        I'm not sure I buy the security angle though. Phones are likely fast enough to encrypt conversations end to end real time, but maybe our government doesn't want to implement that :)

        • by slew ( 2918 )

          I'm not sure I buy the security angle though. Phones are likely fast enough to encrypt conversations end to end real time, but maybe our government doesn't want to implement that :)

          As illustrated by the latest Strava [cnn.com] revelation, sideband/meta-data information is quite useful and end-to-end encryption often doesn't protect against leaking this information. Things like Tor reduce the leakage of this type of sideband, but as we also know, actual implementations like Tor cannot be perfect (nor the users that use the technology).

    • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Angelwrath ( 125723 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @10:48PM (#56024253)

      Yeah, and as a telecom employee I've thought this is the much better way forward. Spectrum sales create walled gardens. With one national network, each tower has access to full spectrum for maximum bandwidth, fewer towers are needed so the infrastructure spend is dramatically less, and the government can set a price and allow anybody in.

      The alternative is good, too: Instead of spectrum sales, each carrier builds out a portion of the network, and has to contribute a minimum contribution like, say, $6 billion USD in infrastructure, and in return they get access to the whole network and customers everywhere. For that price they get access to the network and X number of customers. Then have a tiered pricing structure where, for each additional tower they add to the network, they get access to Y additional customers. If the figures are set carefully, this incentivizes both growing carriers, and large carriers spend more. The result? An even larger network, with more coverage in suburban and rural areas. And potentially new carriers and competition to drive prices lower.

      Now... take this idea and apply it to a national fiber-Internet network, too. Private networks create uneven playing fields and require higher prices because each competitor has to over-build (where there's competition allowed of course). Incentivize carriers to be able to expand their customer base by reaching more and more people with their product, instead, and you'll see as close to 100% affordable broadband access as possible.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        While this would also give direct government surveillance of every cell user everywhere, it would place it back under previous 4th amendment government grounds, rather than in that carefully crafted '3rd parties don't have to respect the 4th amendment' grounds they've been using to spy on us for all these years.

        Thanks to some of the recent surveillance bills it is the same amount of spying either way, but if the winds of politics start to blow the other way, it would provide an opportunity to declaw much of

    • Re:Good (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 28, 2018 @10:53PM (#56024275)

      I like the analogy to the freeway system.

      Good broadband should be available all over the USA, just like the postal service and the highway system. It will make rural communities relevant again.

    • by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @11:39PM (#56024411)

      Placing government in control of a 5G network everyone uses grants government means of directly tracking high resolution movements of everyone everywhere in real time. Hard to come up with a worse more dangerous idea than this one.

      This would in theory make carriers compete for customers everywhere, and increase signal availability and quality for everyone.

      What would be better is framework for allowing competing carriers to dynamically share spectrum completely doing away with exclusive grants.

      Allowing multiple carriers to use the same frequencies is technically feasible with next gen technology and opens up means to competition rather than allowing only those with the deepest pockets to win spectrum auctions.

      • by jeff4747 ( 256583 ) on Monday January 29, 2018 @12:43AM (#56024569)

        Placing government in control of a 5G network everyone uses grants government means of directly tracking high resolution movements of everyone everywhere in real time. Hard to come up with a worse more dangerous idea than this one

        That horse left the barn in the Bush administration. Carriers are required to provide that information to the federal government. It's one of the things in the FISA bills that keep quietly passing Congress.

        • Carriers are required to provide that information to the federal government. It's one of the things in the FISA bills that keep quietly passing Congress.

          Are you seriously asserting carriers are continuously sending the wareabouts of every cell user to the federal government? If so feel free to backup your claim with publically available evidence. Wholesale collection of CDRs from everyone was ended years ago.

          That horse left the barn in the Bush administration.

          So what if it has? Is this a license to ignore the issue and allow it to be made worse?

          • by Freischutz ( 4776131 ) on Monday January 29, 2018 @05:06AM (#56025231)

            Carriers are required to provide that information to the federal government. It's one of the things in the FISA bills that keep quietly passing Congress.

            Are you seriously asserting carriers are continuously sending the wareabouts of every cell user to the federal government? If so feel free to backup your claim with publically available evidence. Wholesale collection of CDRs from everyone was ended years ago.

            Yup, and what makes people think that the government agency running this national 5G network would just alluvasudden ignore whatever laws there are in place that currently prevent the security services from bullying private mobile service providers into tracking every user's location in real time and warehouse the data? If the US security apparatus wanted to implement an Orwellian system to monitor the movements of every US citizen via their cellphone it will not make a damn bit of difference whether the 5G network is publicly or privately owned.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by magusxxx ( 751600 )

        I totally agree with you. And there's another little tidbit no one is considering...

        President Trump: If you want to use our network you'll have to put backdoors into your software. That way when we let our 'allies' use the technology we can make sure it's in our best interest...And if a few Americans are watched at the same time, that's okay. National Security. That's all the explanation we have to give.

        And a big off-topic side note...

        When former President Bush Jr. gave his big TV speech he told Saddam Hus

      • by Freischutz ( 4776131 ) on Monday January 29, 2018 @04:13AM (#56025081)

        Placing government in control of a 5G network everyone uses grants government means of directly tracking high resolution movements of everyone everywhere in real time. Hard to come up with a worse more dangerous idea than this one.

        Why? All that is necessary now to achieve total surveillance is bully all the big providers into feeding the NSA data or just to allow the NSA unrestricted access to each providers backbone and the NSA has done that already. The horrible eventuality you foresee is already the norm thanks to the Republicans and Corporate Democrats (a few lone dissidents on both sides excepted). One big advantage of a national 5G grid would be that new service providers will be able to get equal access to the national grid and to challenge the big boys and eliminate the mobile service fiefdoms the US is currently divided up into and if there is no equal access it would be easier to bully the Fed into allowing it on a national grid by going through the courts than fighting a bunch of Telcos operating as a cartel. In Europe communities with municipal network backbones often have the liveliest competition and the lowest prices due to equal access for everybody both big national and small local players. Of course competition should have been enforced long a go through cartel, price fixing and competition laws since the US Telcos have not made much effort to hide their anti-competitive behaviour. Still, I wouldn't worry, the big Telcos are hard at work lobbying to kill this idea of a national 5G grid to protect their competition free fiefdoms so the current totally rotten system is safe.

    • I had the same thought, but the downside is heavy: a "secure" network with the surveillance built right into it.
    • This would also enable NSA to have full access to 5G. Of course, they already do, so this is not as big of a deal.
  • LMAO (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 28, 2018 @09:38PM (#56023939)

    That doesn't sound very conservative. It's cool though because he's on our team.

    • Re:LMAO (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aussie_a ( 778472 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @09:45PM (#56023971) Journal

      Lots of people in government make all sorts of recommendations, most of them aren't acted on. Just because one department made a presentation on something doesn't mean "team Trump" are going to do it.

  • Big Federal government is better at providing infrastructure services than private industry. That is why Federal spending has increased every year the GOP has been in control of the Federal government.
    • The way Americans here rant about the cartels delivering shoddy overpriced mobile phone and cable services, one might have thought that government intervention to drain the swamp would be a good thing. (Not a commentary on Republicans and Trump, if that's what you're angling for)

      Just don't follow the Australian NBN scenario where one side introduced a policy and the next government completely FUBARed it for political gain and because Uncle Rupert. And they then promoted the turd bowl to Prime Minister...

  • A Trump story without a mention of Russia hacking something? Come on Slashdot!

  • by Bobrick ( 5220289 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @09:42PM (#56023957)
    Reading a US government official denouncing another country's neo-colonial behavior just made my freaking day. +1 Funny whoever it was... Ivanka? Jared?
  • Also in the news... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ...there's pushback because very stupid people are now able to make powerful presentations using PowerPoint, leading to very stupid decisions.

    Mobile networks are not a natural monopoly, the way wired networks are. It's the wired ones that should be nationalized. 5G is not a serious security issue. I'd probably regulate teleco equipment a bit better, with stronger security requirements and legal enforcement of some of the best practices on critical systems.

    • by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @10:27PM (#56024161)

      Mobile networks are not a natural monopoly, the way wired networks are.

      I find your views on limitless spectrum intreging and would like to know more. At the very least, you can always (at huge expense) run more non-interfering fiber. You cannot just broadcast more data.

    • What's your reasoning for thinking 5G is not a serious security issue? In a time of war would you like to have an off switch or the ability to listen in on any phone call over a national 5G network of the country you're in conflict with?

    • Mobile networks are not a natural monopoly, the way wired networks are.

      Uh....each mobile network has an exclusive agreement for part of the wireless spectrum. So yes, they are a natural monopoly. If you don't outbid AT&T, AT&T is the only one who can use that part of the spectrum.

      The result is Verizon and AT&T own almost all of the spectrum, and the other carriers pay them for service.

  • A source suggests the first option is preferred and essential to protect against competition from China and "bad actors".

    How are they going to build the network without using hardware that is made in China?

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Get the design from a trusted US, Germany, Japan, France, UK brand. All thats needed is the experts to show their design is 5G ready and secure to US standards.
      Something that will work in the varied conditions all over the USA.
      Get a new factory designed to turn key standards. Shop around the world for any more trusted nation that will to go cheaper than China for the bid to build 5G for the USA.
      The difficult design work is done. Its just finding a nation with really cheap workers, a good power supply
      • Get the design from a trusted US, Germany, Japan, France, UK brand. All thats needed is the experts to show their design is 5G ready and secure to US standards.

        Under most administrations, Republican or Democrat, I wouldn't blink at this. But with this guy... all it's going to take is one wild rumor from Fox News and suddenly Trump's going to demand everything be completely changed.

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          Its a bit like the Apollo program https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
          Set the spec, use anyone trusted in the private sector to produce what is needed.
          The private sector gets the winning bid, the US gets all the secure 5G it wants at a low cost.
          The private sector keeps on innovating. The US mil has less to worry about another nations telco brand "workers" spying on their camp/fort/base/port.
          • You didn't come close to addressing 93's concerns.

            • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
              What concerns?
              Telco hardware is a product that can be designed and produced like most of other tech products and has been for most telco networks going back many years.
              Pick a secure winning design, find a low wage nation to build the hardware in.
              The only telco change is need for a secure network.
    • By drawing a distinction where Taiwan is concerned.
  • by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @09:58PM (#56024041)

    this will protect us, because mobile devices aren't made in china

    neither are the components of wireless networking gear

    (pffffft!!!!)

  • Nationalizing private assets. Baby steps to become a dictator Donnie.

  • So what would the plan be then, "law enforcement" backdoor, and require it by force of law? Seems pretty straightforward.

  • So, would that mean that if the US Government build/controlled the network, then leased it out, they wouldn't need to notify the companies when they were mirroring and monitoring traffic, right?

    • by Nkwe ( 604125 )

      So, would that mean that if the US Government build/controlled the network, then leased it out, they wouldn't need to notify the companies when they were mirroring and monitoring traffic, right?

      Correct. The US government would also have pretty darn good tracking information on every cell phone and other device on the network. Sure as citizens we could end to end encrypt the data, but I bet each IEMI (or whatever 5g uses) will be legally required to be "owned" or attached to someone. Is the trade off worth it? Maybe, maybe not - but we should forget the ease of tracking this would allow. Pretty much every person carries a cell phone. With 5g most every tablet or other mobile device will be online,

  • Thoughts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @10:42PM (#56024225)
    I think I am actually fine with it. Given the abuses of Verizon and AT&T, I am fine with a nationalized 5G network. CAVEAT: As long as there are no laws forcing encryption to have backdoors.
  • Eventually we could export the hardware with all of our own backdoors in it to our allies instead of them using the stuff with the Chinese backdoors.
  • ...anything that benefits Trump.

  • by mark_reh ( 2015546 ) on Sunday January 28, 2018 @11:01PM (#56024295) Journal

    Medicare for all?

  • public funding: Government builds infrastructure
    private profits: Verizon & AT&T leases infrastructure to citizens

  • by Falconnan ( 4073277 ) on Monday January 29, 2018 @12:06AM (#56024453)
    Am I the only person who sees this as a quick way to lock in all of the electronic surveillance by controlling the encryption directly? Because unless end-to-end encryption is locked in, this would be the full keys to the Kingdom.
  • There is no way I would connect to a government 5G network. We need to be very careful. Governments all over the world are starting to use the "because China" excuse to take away our privacy and freedom.
  • Minority report (Score:4, Insightful)

    by markdavis ( 642305 ) on Monday January 29, 2018 @12:27AM (#56024513)

    Well, I guess I am in a minority on Slashdot, based on the apparent general approval of such a thing. I think it is a dangerous idea. The last thing on earth we need is more and bigger Federal government. Could one reason the Fed would want in on this is to guarantee their easy access to CONTROL and LISTEN IN on the network traffic? Remember, their notion of "Security" typically isn't the same as a consumer's. How many agencies are still SCREAMING for "back doors" in encryption?

    Spectrum is limited, of course. And I have no problem with the Fed in control of who leases such spectrum- someone has to manage it. I even think it is a good thing to set and enforce standards and interconnection and communication. But handing them the keys to design, build it, and supposedly pay for it would likely:

    1) Cost much, much more than expected- just like most every other Fed run program.
    2) Be full of corruption and kickbacks- just like most every other Fed run program.
    3) Take much longer to complete- just like most every other Fed run program.

    Be careful what you wish for....

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Re "Be careful what you wish for...."

      Could end up like another supersonic transport (SST) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] funding .
      Someone has to pay for the placement of the 5G telco network all over the US road network to cover networked transport.
      Give it to the private sector and pay the private sector for every part of the network to cover the most remote parts, difficult to network of the USA?
      Not just networking all the strategic highways and around the mil sites that need telco security.
      Let th
  • This reuters article [reuters.com] suggests that they want to build a national 5G network, but not that they want to take over networks built by private carriers.

    I'd like to see a 5G speed network built that is just a dumb pipe for IP. Then, they could use the same security for VOIP as is used with the wired internet. What's the point to a 5G "cellular telephone" network? The bandwidth is overkill for voice. If they just provide a dumb pipe, secure data communication is as solved a problem as anything they're going to
  • WTF? (Score:2, Insightful)

    I don't even know what to make of this. It seems unclear what they actually want to do but "nationalizing" a whole sector of telecommunications is very socialist.

    Of course that probably wouldn't be much worse than the oligoply that controls wireless already.

  • The other advantage for the government is that, as they run the network, they can run tracking and call interception on anyone at a whim, without having to rely on involving third party telecommunication companies and silly things like warrants.
  • I think this has squat to do about China.. This has more to do with controlling the communication channels of everyday Americans.
  • This means the administration, Trump's or others, will have total control of 5G. Backdoors anyone? Traffic monitoring? Incidental eavesdropping? Location tracing of dissidents? Freezing the network to prevent prevent unrest and agitation by subversive elements?

    No one here seems to get it.

  • by Casandro ( 751346 ) on Monday January 29, 2018 @02:25AM (#56024855)

    We have learned that in Germany, where we went from one of the most modern data networks before we sold our phone company, down to something that's worse than in most eastern European countries.

    However in the interest of balance. Here's a counter point claiming that private enterprise means competition and therefore democracy. And obviously the oil industry in the US is a prime example for this.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • Fuck Trump (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 )
    Here's how I picture it.

    "What's the top sector in the US"
    "Oil and Coal."
    "Have they bribed me?"
    "Yes."
    "OK, 25% tariff on solar. Who's next?"
    "Telecommunications, no bribe."
    "Nationalize 5G, Privatize if they spend $500M at Mar-a-Lago."
    "Done"

    Nationalization of the spectrum (along with the hardware in the tower) is a great idea. Rent it to everyone at the same price. Eliminate monopoly, and force competition on service, not lies about speeds and coverage.

    But the cynic in me thinks it's just a public annou
  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Monday January 29, 2018 @08:07AM (#56025729) Homepage Journal

    I'm trying to reconcile nationalizing the 5G network with abolishing network neutrality. Those two just aren't fitting together well.

    Same with the whole neo-colonialism thing, and the obvious issue of US vs Chinese neo-colonialism.

    This is just silly and full of cognitive dissonance.

  • Amtrak (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jabberw0k ( 62554 ) on Monday January 29, 2018 @08:08AM (#56025733) Homepage Journal
    Do you want Amtrak running your cell network? No service to Phoenix or Annapolis, and Minneapolis gets signal once a day for an hour at midnight. Before you laugh: Amtrak, the nationalization of our passenger trains, was signed into law by Nixon, a Republican.

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