President Donald Trump finally took sides Friday in a fight among his advisers about the best way to advance super-fast 5G wireless networks in the U.S., backing administration officials who want to keep the federal government from grabbing a bigger role from industry.
“In the United States, our approach is private sector-driven and private sector-led. The government doesn’t have to spend lots of money,” Trump said at the White House alongside Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai.
“As you probably heard, we had another alternative of doing it that would be through government investment and leading through the government,” he said. “We don’t want to do that because it won’t be nearly as good, nearly as fast.”
The comments offered a sign that Trump is siding, at least for now, with officials like Pai and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who want to allow telecommunications giants like AT&T and Verizon to take the lead in developing and out rolling the technology. They have been feuding with Trump-world figures like Newt Gingrich and 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, who favor a more government-heavy model that critics liken to “nationalization.”
The Gingrich-Parscale faction has promoted a concept that would see the government share 5G airwaves, via a third-party operator, with wireless companies on a wholesale basis. Major proponents of that approach include Rivada Networks, a politically connected firm backed by Trump ally and venture capitalist Peter Thiel that counts GOP operative Karl Rove as an investor and adviser.