Trump unveils initiatives to boost 5G

The Trump administration is announcing two major initiatives aimed at speeding the deployment of next-generation wireless networks — a major new 5G spectrum auction and a $20.4 billion fund for building out broadband in rural areas.

Ajit Pai, the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), announced the proposals at a White House event alongside President Trump, top economic adviser Larry Kudlow and Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump.

“Secure 5G networks will absolutely be a vital link to America’s prosperity and national security in the 21st century,” Trump said.

The president also tamped down on speculation that his administration would seek to nationalize or otherwise inject itself into the 5G deployment efforts, saying the rollout would be “private-sector driven and private-sector led.”

The details: The FCC will begin auctioning off three different airwaves in December, with the 3,400 megahertz of airwaves for sale representing the largest-ever spectrum auction.

The $20 billion fund will aim to connect 4 million rural homes and businesses to fiber high-speed internet. Laying down the network for wired broadband will help facilitate deployment of 5G technologies in those rural areas.

The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will allocate the $20 billion over the next 10 years.

Pai said in a call with reporters on Friday that the money will only be used in areas where broadband internet isn’t currently available.

The proposal is still light on details, but the FCC chair said the funds would come from the agency’s Universal Service Fund (USF), which provides subsidies for expanding access to communications services in poor and rural areas.

Dem criticism:┬áJessica Rosenworcel, one of the two Democrats on the FCC, criticized the administration’s approach to promoting the new technology.

“So far, this Administration’s interventions on 5G have done more harm than good,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “From imposing tariffs on 5G equipment to alienating allies on 5G security to falling behind the rest of the world on critical mid-band spectrum, the White House has yet to offer a workable plan for US leadership.”

“I hope today’s announcement offers better because our global leadership is at stake,” she added.