President Donald Trump’s campaign on Sunday sought to downplay its support for government intervention in 5G wireless networks after getting blowback from Trump administration officials who favor an industry-led approach.
The campaign told POLITICO on Friday it backs a “wholesale” 5G network, which would see the government making 5G airwaves available through a sharing system with wireless providers. The idea, which Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale has repeatedly promoted on Twitter, would “drive down costs and provide access to millions of Americans who are currently underserved,” campaign spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement, adding the idea is in line with the president’s agenda “to benefit all Americans, regardless of geography.”
That position put the campaign at odds with the view of key Trump administration figures like White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow and members of the Federal Communications Commission, who believe wireless companies like AT&T and Verizon should manage the build-out of 5G. On Sunday, the campaign described Parscale’s support for a wholesale 5G network as his personal opinion and said there was no disconnect with the White House.
“The White House sets the policy on 5G and all issues,” McEnany said in a new statement, which was first reported by Axios. “Naturally, the campaign fully supports the President’s priorities and his policy agenda. There is no daylight between the White House and the campaign.”
The Trump administration has a history of contemplating a government role in 5G, which promises super-fast internet speeds and is seen as critical to future economic development. In early 2018, a leaked memo from the National Security Council envisioned the Trump administration building a nationwide 5G network to compete with China.
That proposal faced immediate rejection from the wireless industry, every FCC commissioner and lawmakers of both parties, amid fears of nationalization. The White House subsequently made a point of showing its support for the wireless industry’s efforts on 5G.
The idea of a wholesale network is being pushed by Rivada Networks, a politically connected wireless company backed by venture capitalist and Trump ally Peter Thiel. Veteran GOP operative Karl Rove, a Rivada adviser, is helping to cultivate an informal network of advocates to push the concept.