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The Costs of Trump’s 5G Wall

Over the past three years, Trump and his followers around Washington have begun to erect the equivalent of his Southern Border Wall around the nation’s information network infrastructure—especially for 5G. The tactics are similar—keep out foreign invaders who are virtually sneaking across the borders to steal the nation’s information resources and controlling our internet things. The tactics and mantras are almost identical. “Build The Wall” that keeps the foreigners’ equipment and communications out of our networks. Stop our cooperation in the international activities that foster global communication and trade because we are being treated unfairly.

Piece by piece, Trump has moved forward with his plans since assuming power—masked by incremental steps in diverse Washington agency venues and the esoteric fog that envelops how 5G networks and cooperation work and supports those who support it would make quick money from 5G network wall snake oil. Like all of the Trump communication, he creates an alternative reality, projecting the illusion of leadership and action while harming American telecommunication’s national security and economic interests. Week after week, the bricks of Trump’s 5G wall have emerged from Administration portals in the form of Executive Orders and instant emergency regulations dictated by tweets. Trump’s 5G security disinformation campaign is the equivalent of his “taking bleach” to cure COVID-19 infections.

Specific examples of Trump’s ignorant, xenophobic wall follies include bans on foreign network products, prohibiting international network interoperation, withdrawal of engagement in international 5G activities by government agencies, demanding lockstep compliance by allies, and impeding private sector collaboration in industry and academic activities. U.S. existence in most global activities has largely ceased—replaced by faux domestic initiatives that create the illusion of replacing ongoing global activities. You can see the adverse effects rather vividly in the participation and leadership at trusted, authoritative international venues dealing with 5G cybersecurity such as ETSI’s annual Security Week. This is a real 5G security venue with the actual global participants in 5G developments, not Trump’s fake ones.

Trump’s playbook here dates back to almost identical tactics by the Harding Administration a century ago. Then, xenophobia and anti-globalism were peaking and abetted by a rampant fear of new foreign radio equipment going into rapidly emerging American wireless Internet infrastructure. Harding’s tactics did not work out well, and ultimately the policies and global engagement changed significantly.

The costs of Trump’s 5G wall fall upon American information industry providers who are being shut out of extraterritorial markets and losing their effective engagement in global collaborative activities. Trump’s actions have been a gift for offshore providers. The costs also fall upon American consumers who will be served up more expensive products with inferior capabilities and fail to interoperate with the rest of the world. And lastly, Trump has made the nation itself an untrusted pariah worldwide that is focused entirely on serving his boundless narcissism and unfettered tweeting of fake information.

The remaining relevant dialogue in international bodies these days is how long it will take the U.S. to recover in a post-Trump world. That will be the great challenge of 2021 and beyond. That is the blueprint for the future that deserves attention over the coming months.

By Anthony Rutkowski, Principal, Netmagic Associates LLC

The author is a leader in many international cybersecurity bodies developing global standards and legal norms over many years.

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