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JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images

The telecom industry and policymakers of both parties quickly squelched a Trump administration proposal calling for the federal government to nationalize part of the U.S. wireless network after Axios published a leaked document outlining the idea.

Why it matters: The swift negative response significantly diminishes the chance of the plan — which White House officials actively discussed with others throughout January — getting off the ground. “Some of the commentary is, like, LOL kind of stuff,” said a congressional staffer, of the conversation around the memo. “The way it’s getting sent to me is more of an eye roll."

What they're saying:

  • “It should also trouble us, frankly, that the National Security Council can’t keep track of its own PowerPoints,” said Rep. Greg Walden, an influential Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees telecom issues.
  • White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Right now we’re in the very earliest stages of the conversation, there are absolutely no decisions made on what that would look like, what roll anyone would play in it — simply the need for a secure network."
  • White House officials also spoke anonymously to reporters to downplay the story. However, the National Security Council eventually confirmed to Recode's Tony Romm in a statement that "all options are under consideration" towards a broader goal of secure, nationwide 5G.
  • All five members of the Federal Communications Commission said the plan was a bad idea. Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that nationalizing a 5G network would be a "costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future."
  • They were backed up by the wireless carriers who have already invested heavily in developing 5G networks. “The government should pursue the free market policies that enabled the U.S. wireless industry to win the race to 4G,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, who is the chief executive of the wireless trade group CTIA.

What we're hearing: Administration officials have been floating the idea of federal involvement in a 5G network for weeks in conversations with government agencies and companies.

  • At a meeting with industry representatives in mid-January, administration officials raised the general idea of the government taking some role in a 5G network for reasons related to China and national security, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
  • Discussions included staffers from some major wireless carriers including AT&T and Verizon, equipment makers like Ericsson and others interested in 5G like Google. The concept did not include the level of specificity contained in the memo, but met a chilly reception.
  • The broad idea was also raised in a meeting between former Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt and administration officials, one of the sources said.
  • The version of the memo published by Axios on Sunday was circulated to government agencies as recently as this month.

Yes, but: Some indicated they thought the memo’s broader arguments about America losing ground in the race for competitive networks had a point.

  • "This correctly diagnoses a real problem. There is a worldwide race to lead in [5G] and other nations are poised to win," tweeted FCC Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel, adding the proposal's conclusions missed the mark.

Why you'll hear about this again: The strong opposition has raised serious doubts about the proposal's feasibility. But it may come up today at a House hearing on digital infrastructure, as well as at Pai's monthly press conference.

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
6 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.

Mike Allen, author of AM
8 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.

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