(p. A15) America dominated 4G because the government largely got out of the way of risk-takers. U.S. regulators, unlike their European counterparts, didn’t try to mandate technical standards or require forced sharing of their wireless networks with competitors. Regulatory humility produced one of the greatest explosions of entrepreneurial brilliance in human history, the mobile internet.
Today the FCC is helping speed 5G deployment by modernizing regulations. Last December it removed utility-style regulations placed on wireless broadband by the Obama administration. On Sept. 26, it pre-empted localities from charging outrageous fees for 5G deployment. It is also gearing up to auction more spectrum in November to help connect the Internet of Things. Tax reform and the Trump administration’s broader deregulatory agenda have also created a more business-friendly environment.
But more should be done. Antitrust officials should update their definitions of markets to give more clarity to 5G entrepreneurs. As T-Mobile and Sprint argue in their merger filings, 5G and free Wi-Fi will compete head-to-head with cable broadband for in-home use.
Regulators also need to recognize that as 5G emerges, old categories are becoming scrambled. Consumers don’t necessarily know, or care, if their content comes from an online provider, a broadcaster, a cable channel or a “tech” company, so long as they can get it on their phone or tablet. Regulations must allow companies to invest, innovate, and merge in this new ecosystem.
For the full commentary, see:
Robert M. McDowell. “To Boost 5G, Keep the Industry Free.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Sept. 28, 2018): A15.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 27, 2018.)