FCC chief Ajit Pai says he would oppose federal 5G network

WASHINGTON, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Monday said he would oppose a federal government move to build and run a national, super-fast 5G wireless network, calling any such effort "costly and counterproductive."

"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," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.

SEE EARLIER: Trump security team sees building US 5G network as option

On Sunday, Reuters reported that President Donald Trump's national security team was looking at options to counter the threat of China spying on U.S. phone calls that include the government building a super-fast 5G wireless network, citing a senior administration official.

The official, confirming the gist of a report from Axios.com, said the option was being debated at a low level in the administration and was six to eight months away from being considered by the president himself.

The 5G network concept is aimed at addressing what officials see as China's threat to U.S. cybersecurity and economic security. But any plan would likely cost hundreds of billions of dollars, require the government to obtain spectrum and raises questions whether Americans would want to buy service from a government entity, wireless carriers said.

Pai, a Republican named FCC chairman by Trump in January 2017, has backed 5G and looked for ways to help eliminate barriers to private sector adoption.

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The most significant Trump reversals of Obama orders in 2017
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The most significant Trump reversals of Obama orders in 2017

DEFERRED ACTION FOR CHILDHOOD ARRIVALS (DACA)

Signed in 2012, Obama’s executive order offering legal protections from deportation to children brought into the country by undocumented immigrant parents offered a legal respite for nearly 800,000 people. While it was not a permanent solution, many Republicans in Congress sided with Democrats in the view that children protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program should ultimately be granted U.S. citizenship. But on Sept. 5, 2017,  President Trump put that possibility in doubt. “Make no mistake, we are going to put the interest of AMERICAN CITIZENS FIRST!” Trump tweeted ahead of an announcement by his attorney general that he was rescinding Obama’s action. The matter now rests with Congress.

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

TRANSFER OF SURPLUS MILITARY EQUIPMENT TO LOCAL POLICE

In 2015, in the wake of what some viewed as the outsize police response to the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., Obama issued an order banning the sale of surplus military equipment such as grenade launchers and armored vehicles to local police forces. On Aug. 28, 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Trump was scrapping the restriction “to make it easier to protect yourselves and your communities.”

(Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

NORMALIZING RELATIONS WITH CUBA

Denouncing the Obama administration’s 2014 decision to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, President Trump announced on June 16, 2017, that he was putting travel and trade restrictions with the island nation back in place. “The previous administration’s easing of restrictions on travel and trade does not help the Cuban people — they only enrich the Cuban regime,” Trump said in a Florida speech.

(A vintage car drives past the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini)

THE PARIS CLIMATE AGREEMENT

Trump has said he believes that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. His June 1, 2017, decision to walk away from the Paris climate agreement signed by his predecessor ultimately left the United States isolated as the only country in the world not onboard.

(REUTERS/Jacky Naegelen/File Photo)

OFFSHORE AND ARCTIC OIL DRILLING

Making good on the long-held Republican slogan “Drill, baby, drill,” Trump overturned a 2016 Obama executive order banning oil drilling in parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic.

“This is a great day for American workers and families,” Trump said at a signing ceremony on April 28, 2017. “And today we’re unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying American energy jobs.”

(Susanne Miller/US Fish and Wildlife Service/Handout via Reuters) 

NET NEUTRALITY 

Obama’s rules that guaranteed equal access to the internet — aka net neutrality — were enshrined in 2015 with a vote from the Federal Communications Commission. But new FCC commissioners are appointed by whichever president is serving, and when Trump took office he installed new leadership, which voted on Dec. 14 to scrap the policy, opening up the internet to what critics fear will result in a tiered system of information and entertainment.

REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot

THE CLEAN WATER RULE

On Feb. 28, 2017, President Trump began his assault on Obama’s executive order that expanded federal oversight of pollution in the nation’s rivers, streams and lakes. Trump’s first step was to order the EPA to “review and reconsider” the restrictions. Then, in June, the administration officially rolled back the environmental protections for over half of the nation’s tributaries.

(Yellow mine waste water is seen at the entrance to the Gold King Mine in San Juan County, Colorado, in this picture released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) taken August 5, 2015. REUTERS/EPA/Handout/File Photo)

CAPS ON GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS AT POWER PLANTS

Keeping a campaign promise to the coal industry, Trump signed an executive order on March 28, 2017, intended to begin dismantling Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which required power plants to reduce carbon emissions. Trump’s new “Energy Independence” order also reversed a ban on coal leasing on federal lands and loosened restrictions on methane emissions. Several states immediately filed a lawsuit against the administration, claiming the move endangered the health of citizens.

(The coal-fired Castle Gate Power Plant is pictured outside Helper, Utah November 27, 2012. REUTERS/George Frey)

SCOPE OF NATIONAL MONUMENTS

Applauded by industry and decried by environmentalists, Trump signed an executive order on April 26, 2017, that swept away Obama’s use of the 1906 Antiquities Act to protect federal lands from oil drilling, mining and other development. “Today we’re putting the states back in charge,” he said at the signing. In December, the administration announced it would reduce the size of the Obama-created Bears Ears National Monument by 85 percent, and the Bill Clinton-designated Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by 50 percent.

(The moon glows over Indian Creek in the northern portion of Bears Ears National Monument, Utah, U.S., October 29, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen)

BATHROOM PROTECTIONS FOR TRANSGENDER STUDENTS

One month into his term, Trump rescinded an Obama directive that allowed students to use school bathrooms that matched their self-identified gender. Trump’s rationale for the reversal was that states, rather than the federal government, should decide how to handle the question.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten decried the move, telling the Associated Press that it “tells trans kids that it’s OK with the Trump administration and the Department of Education for them to be abused and harassed at school for being trans.”

(Photo via Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

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CTIA, the trade group that represents AT&T Inc, Verzion Communications Inc, Apple Inc, Sprint Corp and others, said in a statement the "government should pursue the free market policies that enabled the U.S. wireless industry to win the race to 4G."

Another Republican on the FCC, Mike O’Rielly, said the leaked proposal was "nonsensical" and did not represent what was happening in the marketplace.

"U.S. commercial wireless companies are the envy of the world and are already rushing ahead to lead in 5G," he said in a statement, adding that the FCC should provide additional spectrum to help facilitate deployment. (Reporting by Susan Heavey, Katanga Johnson and David Shepardson,; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Andrew Hay)

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