Digital Liberty Joins Coalition Letter Opposing Nationalized 5G

Today, Digital Liberty signed onto a coalition letter with over 40 other organizations addressed to Senate Majority Whip, John Thune, expressing gratitude for his leadership in collecting a group of 18 other Senators to openly oppose any attempt to create a nationalized 5G network in the United States. 

The Senators wrote to President Trump last week expressing their support for his position that the race to 5G deployment must be private-sector led and private-sector driven; and opposed any attempt to create a nationalized 5G network. 

Our letter adds support to the points raised by the Senators and brings attention to ongoing interest from the Pentagon to create such a network. 

You can read the coalition letter in its entirety below, and it is also linked here

Dear Senator Thune,  

We write to thank you for your recent letter supporting the American competitive approach to 5G deployment, which is private sector driven and private sector lead. We agree that nationalizing 5G and experimenting with untested models for 5G deployment is not the way the United States wins the 5G race. Deployment of 5G should not rely on the government but should focus on unleashing the private sector and the free market.   

We too are concerned with the Department of Defense Request for Information on a government-managed process for 5G development and are alarmed with how quickly it is proceeding. Even more disturbing are the rumors that the RFI was only for show and that the DoD already has an RFP it plans to greenlight.  

Taxpayers should not foot the bill for something that the private sector is already committed to doing through a free market approach. America’s private companies have invested decades of research, spent tens of billions of dollars, and are already deploying 5G across the country at a breakneck pace. There are three U.S. companies – AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile – who have spent billions in recent years building national 5G networks, and another, DISH, which is also building a network. The idea of government entering the 5G business has been rejected by policymakers on both sides of the aisle.  More mid-band spectrum is all they need to turbo charge deployment. It makes no sense to think that the DoD, starting from zero, could deploy these networks faster or more efficiently. It would cost tens of billions of taxpayer dollars and take decades to build a network from scratch to nationalize our communications system.  

For example, we are still waiting for the final results of a spectrum sharing plan that began 10 years ago in the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum band.CBRS is 150 MHz of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz to 3.7 GHz range that was originally used by the Navy and some commercial satellite providers. The FCC designated the band for sharing among three tiers of users: incumbent users, licensed users and unlicensed users. The auction for licensed use began in July 2020 and concluded in September 2020. The carriers who won these licenses are in the beginning stages of building out their 5G networks. There is no reason to pull the rug out from under them now.   

The implications of the DoD RFI are counter to the Administration’s recent actions. The President has repeatedly said that the private sector should lead the U.S. in 5G innovation. In August 2020, President Trump announced that 100 megahertz of contiguous, coast-to-coast mid-band spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band would be made available for commercial 5G deployment. DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy, commented, “With this additional 100 MHz, the U.S. now has a contiguous 530 megahertz of mid-band spectrum from 3450-3980 MHz to enable higher capacity 5G networks.” Here, the Administration and DoD collaborated to ensure no compromise to military preparedness, while also ensuring the free market, competitive U.S. economy can drive America’s winning position in the 5G race.  

A government-run 5G backbone, wholesale network, or whatever name it goes by, is nationalization of private business. Spectrum sharing is something that must be considered as the nation moves forward with private networks, but it is not a reason for a government or, even worse, a military takeover. For a government-run network to happen, the federal government would have to either renege on licenses granted to private users or hoard spectrum at the expense of private industry. Either approach would upend well-established licensure policies at the FCC that establish certainty in operating and maintaining complex networks and create massive unnecessary delays to launching 5G networks. Moreover, the government should not be in the business of “competing” with private industry. That’s the business model of China and Russia, not the United States.  

This concept has failed in other countries. Other countries experimented with nationalized networks and these attempted have failed. For example, in 2011, Russia gave away spectrum to a company that promised lower prices and sweeping deployments via a wholesale network built with Huawei equipment. Three years later, that company gave up after reaching barely a quarter of Russia. Meanwhile, in that same time, the U.S. industry built out LTE to nearly 96 percent of Americans. Similar experiments in South Africa and Mexico have also failed. 

Spectrum does not belong to the military. If after discovering new efficiencies, the DoD has discovered ways to put spectrum allocated to it to better use, the government should clear the spectrum while making sure military needs are still met. Spectrum sharing between government and private users, like the CBRS band, or relocating government users and then auctioning the available spectrum with proceeds going to the American people, are both viable and tested. Military users should not build a network simply for financial gain including some kind of revenue sharing. The DoD sits on billions of dollars of spectrum assets without accounting for it on their balance sheets – if the DoD has excess capacity, it should be auctioned for the benefit of the American taxpayer.     

The best approach toward collaboration between DoD and the private sector is cleared licensed spectrum for flexible use or coordinated sharing on bands among federal users and private licensed and unlicensed users, with proceeds going to the taxpayers. Nationalization or excessive regulatory intervention stalled other nations in the race to 4G. America won that race and the competitive process soared ahead, leading to economic gains for in networking, standards and technology, and eventually prompting the creation of the App Economy. The race to 5G will be won if the private sector once again leads the way and the government does not get in the way.  

Thank you for your leadership on this critically important issue. We hope you will continue your efforts to slow down the process on this disruptive proposal and to roll back any efforts to nationalize 5G development and deployment.   


Grover G. Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform

Douglas Holtz-Eakin* 
American Action Forum

Jennifer Huddleston* 
Director of Technology & Innovation Policy
American Action Forum

Phil Kerpen
American Commitment

Daniel Schneider
Executive Director
American Conservative Union

Krisztine Pusok, Ph.D.
Director of Policy and Research
American Consumer Institute

Stephen Pociask 
President and CEO
American Consumer Institute

Brent Wm. Gardner
Chief Government Affairs Officer
Americans for Prosperity

Andrew F. Quinlan
Center for Freedom and Prosperity

Jeffery Mazzella
Center for Individual Freedom

Tom Schatz
Citizens Against Government Waste

Ashley Baker
Director of Public Policy
The Committee for Justice

Jessica Melugin 
Associate Director
Center for Technology & Innovation
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Jim Edwards 
Executive Director
Conservatives for Property Rights

Matthew Kandrach 
Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

Katie McAuliffe 
Executive Director
Digital Liberty

Jason Pye
Vice President of Legislative Affairs

George Landrith
Frontiers of Freedom

Jessica Anderson
Executive Director
Heritage Action for America

Mario H. Lopez 
Hispanic Leadership Fund

Carrie Lukas
Independent Women’s Forum

Heather R. Higgins
Independent Women’s Voice

Bartlett D. Cleland 
Executive Director
Innovation Economy Institute

Wayne T. Brough, PhD. 
Innovation Defense Foundation

Ian Adams 
Executive Director
International Center for Law and Economics

Tom Giovanetti 
Institute for Policy Innovation

Silvia Elaluf-Calderwood* 
The iSchool at Syracuse University

Andrea O’Sullivan 
Director, Center for Technology & Innovation
James Madison Institute

Seton Motley 
Less Government

James Czerniawski 
Policy Analyst, Tech and Innovation
Libertas Institute

Zach Graves 
Head of Policy
Lincoln Network

Brandon Arnold 
Executive Vice President
National Taxpayers Union

Eric Peterson
Pelican Center for Technology & Innovation 

Lorenzo Montanari 
Executive Director
Property Rights Alliance

Jeffery Westling 
Technology Resident Fellow
R Street Institute

Karen Kerrigan
President & CEO 
Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council 

James L. Martin 
60 Plus Association 

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis 
60 Plus Association 

David Williams 
Taxpayer Protection Alliance 

James E. Dunstan  
General Counsel 

Roslyn Layton, PhD 
President Elect Transition Team for  
Federal Communications Commission 2016-2017 

Mark A. Jamison, PhD 
President Elect Transition Team for  
Federal Communications Commission 2016-2017 

Casey Given 
Executive Director 
Young Voices 

*organization provided for identification purposes only