How Washington flew into a 5G mess


The saga of squabbling agencies, warnings of plane crashes and billions of dollars in spectrum has been years in the making.

Passenger flights land and take off at Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo


01/19/2022 07:10 PM EST

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The collision between wireless companies and the airlines mushroomed into a potential political crisis this week for President Joe Biden, pitting air travel for millions of Americans against the U.S. struggle for supremacy in ultra-fast internet.

It’s also the latest example of dysfunction in how the U.S. carves up its lucrative wireless spectrum.

Past spectrum actions by the Federal Communications Commission have inspired decades-long feuds between telecom companies and automakers; kicked off a legal battle involving electric utilities, broadcasters, cable operators and Google; and prompted the Trump-era Pentagon to warn that the FCC was imperiling the nation’s GPS service.

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