A memo leaked from the White House this week shows the administration considering letting the federal government develop the nation’s 5G cell phone and Internet network instead of private companies. The main rationale is the security risk such a network could pose in the modern world of hacking and cyber espionage.
Critics were quick to pounce on the idea, however, with one commentator titling his article “The White House Floats Socialism for the Internet.”
Would it really be socialism for the federal government to roll out “next generation” cell facilities instead of private companies, like AT&T and Verizon? Maybe, if we weren’t mostly there already thanks to the passage of S.B. 1004 by the Texas Legislature and similar measures being considered by Congress and federal agencies.
Senate Bill 1004 and the federal proposals virtually give away taxpayer-owned property for the use of cell companies to make their profits. The state bill requires cities to donate their poles and other vertical structures for $250 each, many multiples below market value to the taxpayer. The federal initiatives – all pushed by the same cell companies – could go further and deprive taxpayers of even that tiny amount.
Industry critics of the administration’s proposal want it both ways. They’re happy to accept government handouts of free land and right-of-way, but would hate to see the government take the next step and simply run the network. Why? They’d lose the layer of profits they plan to make on the backs of the taxpayers. Cell companies want just enough socialism to pad their bottom line, but not an ounce more.
Texas Municipal League officers and staff will travel to Washington, D.C., next week to visit with key members of the Texas Congressional delegation about the federal efforts mentioned above. The League also supports a lawsuit filed by 40 cities opposing the theft of taxpayer right-of-way by S.B. 1004.
If asked how cities feel about the White House proposal to let the government roll out the network, we’ll have a conundrum on our hands. At worst, it would be an honest form of socialism instead of the crony socialism of S.B. 1004 and its ilk.