Pai Points to Government Impediments to 5G

On July 4, FCC chairman Ajit Pai took aim at what he sees as efforts by elements of his own government to delay the rollout of critical 5G networks, and did so on a trip outside the U.S.

That came in a speech to the Congreso Latinamericano de Telecommunicaciones in Córdoba, Argentina. As per the tradition of keeping internal squabbles internal when offshore, Pai did not call out anyone by name or initials, but those following the issues knew who he was talking about, confirmed by a spokesperson.

"Building 5G networks is a daunting and expensive project in its own right. With a project this big, we are sure to run up against resistance, whether it’s incumbents making unfounded claims about spectrum interference or different levels of government trying to charge high fees."

The first was a reference to Commerce Department resistance to the 24 GHz spectrum auction earlier this year that NASA and NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) said could cause interference to remote weather sensing. Pai has said that was based on a faulty study and that Commerce has been blocking and undermining the FCC's efforts "at every single turn."

The reference to the government fees sounded familiar--the commission has been taking steps to ease tower citing issues. An FCC spokesperson said it was a reference to "the federal, state, Tribal, and local efforts to exact rents from 5G builders, the subject of our infrastructure orders that we adopted last year."

Pai also put in a plug for the international community working together to protect those 5G networks.

"When making decisions that affect 5G security, we need to remember that the implications are wide-ranging. 5G will affect our militaries, our industries, our critical infrastructure, and much more," he said. "The procurement and deployment decisions made now will have a generational impact on our security, economy, and society."

The Trump Administration has been seeking international buy-in for cracking down on suspect tech, though it has signaled that the status of Chinese telecom Huawei, which has been identified by U.S. intelligence agencies as a security threat, could be a bargaining chip in trade negotiations.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.