Shapiro: Winning 5G Race Is About Preserving Values

Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro is among those who believe the U.S. needs to win the race to 5G (against China, principally). But for him the race is not about the technology as much as it is about what kind of world that technology creates in the right, or wrong, hands. 

Gary Shapiro at the Next Web Conference

Gary Shapiro at the Next Web Conference

"If China wins everything, then their way of life is the way of life that gets pushed on the world," he said. 

Related: White House Praised for Signaling No Nationalizing of 5G

That came in a speech to the DC5G conference in Washington Tuesday (Nov. 5) co-sponsored by SES Networks and the Department of Homeland Security. 

Shapiro, who is all about innovation, conceded that it has its dark side as well in the wrong hands. A hammer can build a house, he said, or kill someone. 

But his focus is on the good, which is why he says the U.S. needs to win the race to a 5G world where the technology is used to benefit health, agriculture, manufacturing, jobs and the U.S. economy, rather than for surveillance and control, as would likely be the case if China dominates the space. 

He said that while people talk about the internet of things, it is really the internet of censors and connectivity. 

Shapiro said that 5G and the AI it empowers--from self-driving vehicles to robotics--together represent a real competitive economic battle for 5G, and one that is important because "our children's way of life and standard of living, the economy and jobs will all depend on how well we do as a nation in these various technologies." 

Shapiro pointed out that the U.S. and Canada have a different world view. From the U.S. view, some of China's surveillance and control uses of new tech would be unacceptable.  

He said jobs and the economy are "really important," but that the bigger issue is individual liberty. 

He said the competition over technology like 5G is "what kind of world our kids and grandkids will live in. Will it be a world with China and its allies where the individual is not important, where there are none of the things we take for granted, like freedom of religion, freedom to access the internet, freedom to vote for someone in a meaningful way, freedom to marry who you want, freedom of association, freedom to petition the government." 

"5G is part of that battle for supremacy, because if we lose we potentially lose those other battles about who we are as a nation," he said. 

Shapiro said the government needed to remain focused on clearing away regulatory impediments to that 5G goal and declaring 5G to be an important driver of economic and social benefits.  

One of those benefits, he said, was going to be self-driving cars. Shapiro said the country needs to focus on the benefits of self-driving cars rather than saying, "Oh my god, there were two people killed." Well 35,000 people die [in traffic accidents] every year. Yeah, we're going to  have some deaths with self-driving," he said. "They will happen....We'll have some challenges with 5G." 

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.