News that the Trump Administration is planning to build its own high-speed 5G network caused widespread discussion earlier this year, thanks to a sensitive government document discovered by Axios. The news website reported plans for a portion of the nation’s mobile network to be government-run in a bid to guard against Chinese spies.
It soon emerged that the document was outdated and the government protested that it had no such plans. “Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future,” Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, told Recode.
In any case, the news has sparked debate around the possible consequences of Trump controlling telcos. An article by Business Insider points out that telcos would need to pay the government for the right to broadcast on various airwaves and for the technology used to do so. These costs could then be passed onto the consumer.
Meanwhile, an article by Futurism considers how governments in other countries have interfered with their nations’ mobile Internet. In Guatemala, for example, the government has banned certain apps, and in China, sites like Twitter, Gmail and any that criticize particular political policies or subjects are blocked. For a while in 2016, Morocco censored phone calls via Internet services like Skype, WhatsApp and Facebook.
One of the more extreme possibilities of a government-run 5G network is that it could provide the Trump Administration with the ability to switch off the Internet. In 2013, the Department of Homeland Security revealed intentions to create a “kill switch” that could help protect the public in an emergency, such as a terrorist attack. The DHS’ plans have yet to come to fruition.