Two top House Democrats began an inquiry Friday into the Defense Department’s potential steps toward a national 5G network, raising concerns about the Pentagon’s recent engagement with the wireless telecommunications industry.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (NJ), and Mike Doyle (PA), the top Democrat on the panel’s Communications and Technology Subcommittee, are searching for details about a request for information from the Pentagon that seeks input from wireless carriers. The lawmakers said they are worried the DoD is working to own and operate nationalized 5G and lease federal spectrum for commercial purposes.
CTIA praised the move. CTIA SVP Government Affairs Kelly Cole stated: “Private-sector solutions and free-market principles are critical to ensuring America leads in 5G, and it’s important to take a hard look at the dangers of nationalizing our wireless networks.”
The inquiry comes after DoD released a Request for Information that seeks input from industry on these topics, and multiple press reports that the timing of the RFI could be politically motivated. The lawmakers wrote to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) expressing their concern and requesting information.
“We have heard reports that the suddenness of this request and the short turnaround timeframe have been prompted directly by senior White House Officials. We have also heard reports that the White House has instructed DoD to proceed immediately to a Request for Proposal in order to move forward toward a national 5G network,” wrote Pallone and Doyle.
In their letter to GAO, the lawmakers wrote that any attempt by DoD to construct, operate or maintain a commercial communications network or lease government spectrum to commercial entities without the permission of Congress could be unlawful. Pallone and Doyle asked GAO to conduct a legal analysis.
“We write to request that the Government Accountability Office evaluate whether the Department of Defense has the legal authority to construct, operate, or maintain a commercial communications network or lease its assigned electromagnetic spectrum to private entities to provide commercial communications service,” wrote Pallone and Doyle. “We believe DoD has limited or no legal authority to do so.”
The letter from House Democrats comes after a letter to President Trump last week by a group of 19 Republican senators expressing concerns about the RFI, saying they felt it contradicted a free-market strategy, Inside Towers reported.
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