To Nationalize or Not; and What About the Trade Commission?


Hot off the presses, here’s a 19th century regulatory idea for you: Why don’t we nationalize our communication networks? That’s a goal of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, Irish-American telecom operator Rivada Networks, and telecom lobbyist INCOMPAS. The idea isn’t fully fleshed out, but it’s nutty on its face given that it would most likely prevent 5G operators from building their own cell sites. Richard and Shane discuss this not-so-brilliant idea in the latest High Tech Forum podcast.

5G brings a lot of new capability to users and app developers based on high speed and low delay, but it also reconfigures the computing environment. Edge computing – essentially micro-CDNs – brings information closer to users. We’re not going to see the development of edge computing facilities from a uniform government network, so this is another reason to be skeptical of Speaker Gingrich’s contract on America’s networks.

The 5G buildout is hampered on some areas by extortionate rents on small cell sites. These fees are driven the need of some municipalities – such as San Jose, California – to raise money for pension costs. While we’re sympathetic to retirees, there are ways to meet these needs without wrecking the technology sector.

The rebirth of net neutrality is another hazard for 5G because it creates an obstacle to network slicing, a technology that virtualizes network functions. One of the trends in information technologies that reaps enormous benefits is the replacement of hard-wired systems with flexible software-based one that can be reconfigured on the fly to meet consumer needs. No slicing means limited benefits, something that old school regulators such as Senator Ed Markey and former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler systematically refuse to acknowledge.

We also go into the Federal Trade Commission’s new technology task force and Richard’s recent meetings at the FTC. The trade commission has substantial expertise on economics and technology law, as well as strong technologists who develop tools for the agency, analyze business practices, and make recommendations on proceedings. Now that the FTC is raising the profile of technology  and the FCC has created its office of economics, both regulators are more capable than they’ve ever been.

We wrap up with a discussion of new developments in networking technology branded as Wi-Fi 6, 10G, and TLS 1.3. These developments aren’t directly related, but they all promise to make networks faster and better.