New approaches to telecoms policy reflect the rise of Trumpism
Aug 24, 2018 by Manuel R. Marti


Shortly after slamming the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in a letter to a leading US politics publication, the Republican FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly went on the offensive again at last week’s FCC oversight hearing. 

“There should be some primacy established–either in terms of financial resources and/or mission attention–with regards to issues explored by the ITU,” he said.

Such comments are perhaps typical of the Trump Administration’s abrasive approach towards international organisations. The US has already abandoned the Paris Agreement on climate change, left the United Nations Human Rights Council and withdrawn from UNESCO. Some believe it is even planning to leave the World Trade Organisation.

O’Rielly has long called for the ITU to reform, arguing US interests are disadvantaged in international spectrum policy and other matters. Perhaps he will soon start tweeting about this at four in the morning.

Chinese companies have also become targets for the US. President Trump last week approved legislation prohibiting the government and its contractors from using Huawei or ZTE for the next two years. 

Australia seems keen to join the party. Taking its cue from the US, the Australian government has banned Huawei and ZTE from taking part in the rollout of 5G mobile infrastructure, citing national security concerns.

Consultants have told the Financial Times such a move could cause as much as 18 months’ delay in terms of 5G deployments in Australia. They also predict the costs of deployment would increase by 20-30 per cent if the world’s biggest telecoms equipment manufacturers were excluded, leaving only Nokia and Ericsson as feasible equipment providers.

People involved in spectrum management, it seems, and in telecoms generally, will have to get used to governments that are increasingly prepared to disrupt the workings of international organisations and the business models of multinationals in order to get what they want.