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‘Failure Of Leadership’: Biden Administration Slammed Over 5G Rollout Debacle

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  • Lawmakers, federal officials and telecommunications companies criticized the Biden administration’s handling of 5G deployment commencing Wednesday after safety concerns prompted partial delays.
  • “We are frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner,” AT&T said Tuesday.
  • The Federal Aviation Administration and airlines’ concerns center on the effects of 5G operations in the “C-Band” frequency range, which they argue could disrupt airplanes’ altimeters and potentially endanger aircraft and passengers, forcing grounding of planes and other disruptions.
  • “There are undoubtedly legitimate concerns that harmful interference from 5G operations in the C-band will negatively impact the performance of some altimeters, but the FCC has reviewed the data and has yet to find the concerns persuasive for most modern altimeters,” Jeffrey Westling, director of Technology and Innovation Policy at the American Action Forum, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • FCC officials have criticized the FAA, and by extension the Department of Transportation, for their handling of the situation, arguing the constant delays are hampering U.S. innovation and technological progress, and that the underlying safety concerns are overblown.

Lawmakers, federal officials and telecommunications companies criticized the Biden administration’s handling of 5G deployment commencing Wednesday after safety concerns prompted partial delays.

AT&T and Verizon were initially scheduled to deploy 5G wireless internet Wednesday, but announced they would be temporarily limiting network operations near airports on Tuesday following a Monday letter sent by airline CEOs to Biden administration officials requesting to delay the rollout over concerns 5G would disrupt aircraft equipment. Despite the telecommunications companies’ agreement, several international airlines told The Wall Street Journal they were still suspending flights due to 5G operations and potential equipment disruptions.

The airlines’ position echoes that of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Transportation; Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FAA Administrator Steve Dickson previously requested AT&T and Verizon delay their rollouts on Jan. 4 over the same concerns.

The telecommunications giants both expressed their dissatisfaction with the Biden administration’s handling of the situation, taking issue with the FAA’s leadership.

“We are frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner,” AT&T said Tuesday.

“The Federal Aviation Administration and our nation’s airlines have not been able to fully resolve navigating 5G around airports, despite it being safe and fully operational in more than 40 other countries,” Verizon said in a statement Tuesday.

The delay is the latest development in the ongoing feud between the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency in charge of administering internet deployment, and the FAA and airlines over 5G networks. The FAA had previously succeeded in pressuring AT&T and Verizon to delay their 5G deployment scheduled for Jan. 5, and had also elicited an earlier one-month delay from the internet companies in November.

The FAA and airlines’ concerns center on the effects of 5G operations in the “C-Band” frequency range, which they argue could disrupt airplanes’ altimeters and potentially endanger aircraft and passengers, forcing grounding of planes and other disruptions.

“To be blunt, the nation’s commerce will grind to a halt,” airline CEOs said in the Monday letter to Biden administration officials.

However, the FCC has rebutted the airlines’ and FAA’s claims and has authorized use of C-Band spectrum in March 2020, while telecommunications companies have also issued reports purporting to debunk the FAA’s assertions that 5G C-Band poses a substantive risk to airplane equipment.

“There are undoubtedly legitimate concerns that harmful interference from 5G operations in the C-band will negatively impact the performance of some altimeters, but the FCC has reviewed the data and has yet to find the concerns persuasive for most modern altimeters,” Jeffrey Westling, director of Technology and Innovation Policy at the American Action Forum, told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

FCC officials have criticized the FAA, and by extension the Department of Transportation, for their handling of the situation, arguing the constant delays are hampering U.S. innovation and technological progress, and that the underlying safety concerns are overblown.

Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr released a statement late Tuesday excoriating the White House for its role in the debacle.

“This is a clear failure of leadership,” Carr said. “At any point in time, the White House could have stood up and sided with the science. They didn’t.”

Carr’s concerns echo those of six former FCC chairs, who sent a letter to administration officials in mid-December expressing frustration at the FAA’s role in the situation.

“The FAA position threatens to derail the reasoned conclusions reached by the FCC after years of technical analysis and study,” wrote the authors, who include former FCC Chairs Ajit Pai, Tom Wheeler, Mignon Clyburn, Julius Genachowski, Michael Copps and Michael Powell.

Top House Energy & Commerce Committee Republicans, including Ranking Member Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Bob Latta, issued a statement of their own Tuesday arguing the Biden administration’s actions risk hampering efforts to improve internet service.

“The U.S. government has hardworking experts who can address any outstanding technical issues, but instead of leading, the White House has sleepwalked through this botched process,” the lawmakers said. “By lurching from one arbitrary deadline to the next with no clear plan or strategy for resolution, this Administration’s negligence continues to delay finding a lasting solution that improves our everyday wireless communication while protecting aviation safety.”

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