Sen. Cruz participates in hearing examining internet policies and potential implications for U.S. commercial mobile broadband expansion
Today at the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet hearing, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) questioned expert witnesses focusing on international internet policies impacting the competitiveness, investment, and innovation opportunities of American businesses in the global digital economy. Sen. Cruz asked witnesses their concerns regarding nationalization of 5G networks, and how to better achieve faster speeds for U.S. mobile communication technology consumers:
“This past January, as you know, a memo leaked from the National Security Council which called for nationalizing the 5G mobile broadband networks, and since then the administration has been less than clear in rejecting that idea,” Sen. Cruz said. “I and many members of the Senate consider that to be a profoundly bad idea. That’s why Senator Cortez Masto and I, together, introduced the E-FRONTIER legislation last week, which would prohibit the federal government from nationalizing our nation’s commercial telecommunications network without authorization from Congress.”
The E-FRONTIER Act would reassert the role of Congress in the decision-making process for nationalizing 5G networks, require the Comptroller General to conduct a security analysis of threats facing U.S. broadband networks from American adversaries, and allow for the U.S. broadband market to continue to lead the world in speed and innovation.
A full transcript is below:
Sen Cruz: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Good morning. Welcome to each of the witnesses. Thank you for being here. Dr. Layton, this past January, as you know, a memo leaked from the National Security Council which called for nationalizing the 5G mobile broadband networks, and since then the administration has been less than clear in rejecting that idea. I and many members of the Senate consider that to be a profoundly bad idea. That’s why Senator Cortez Masto and I, together, introduced the E-FRONTIER legislation last week, which would prohibit the federal government from nationalizing our nation’s commercial telecommunications network without authorization from Congress. Dr. Layton, in your judgment, what would it mean if the federal government were to nationalize our nation’s 5G networks?
Dr. Layton: That would be a disaster. I saw the press release today, and thank you and Senator Cortez Masto for your leadership. It certainly helps me sleep well at night. But I would say, if there’s one point that we know in telecommunications policy that we have evidenced over and over again is that governments should not be running the telecommunications network. It has been a colossal waste of money, colossal waste of energy, and it’s not where we should put our resources. Particularly, when we have private companies who are willing to put up $300 billion to have all kinds of competitive 5G networks. So, it’s not where we should put our money.
Sen. Cruz: So, in your judgment is the E-FRONTIER Act the right direction for this committee and Congress to go?
Dr. Layton: Absolutely.
Sen. Cruz: Does anyone on the panel disagree? Does anyone think that the federal government nationalizing 5G is a good idea? Secretary Chertoff, what are your thoughts on the implications if the government were to try to nationalize 5G?
Secretary Chertoff: Well, again I’m not sure exactly what that would look like, but in general I think nationalization of a function like that stifles innovation. And, it puts the government in a position which overreaches in terms of what its proper role is.
Sen Cruz: Mr. Bladel, there has been considerable attention devoted in Congress and in the national discussion to the role of tech companies and social media companies engaging in political censorship. What do you think of the role and what does GoDaddy think the role should be of tech companies censoring the speech of others?
Mr. Bladel: Thank you Senator. I can’t speak for the entire industry but from GoDaddy’s perspective we do not want to be an arbitrator of free speech. We don’t believe that’s an appropriate role for us as a private sector company. We are supporters of an open internet that supports free expression and welcomes all views. That said, we do have terms of service for using our platform for communication and there are some very specific cases that would cause us to suspend or terminate service, illegal activities, threats of violence, and pharmaceutical sales, and things that are called out in our terms of service. So, we – any content complaints we receive are subject to a case-by-case review and then we decide according to our terms of service. But as a private sector company we do not want that role.
Sen. Cruz: So, I think you would not find disagreement when it comes to shutting down criminal enterprises – conduct that clearly violates criminal law. What does obviously raise questions is when it’s not criminal conduct, it is simply content that may be offensive, that may be wrong, but that is not illegal. Then the question becomes who should be the gatekeeper? Who decides what speech is permissible? And what speech is not? Have there been instances in your company’s history where, because of disagreement with content, you have shut down access to a website?
Mr. Bladel: Typically, as part of that review, the content would have to contain illegal materials or rise to the level of a direct call for or threats of violence for us to take action.
Sen. Cruz: You obviously operate within the tech space, should social media companies in your judgment be neutral public forums? Should they respect First Amendment principles and allow, as John Stuart Mill put it, the cure for bad speech to be more speech rather than a priori censorship?
Mr. Bladel: In my view, and I think this shared by GoDaddy and other companies in our space, is that we want the internet to be as open and welcoming as possible for free expression and that it’s not the role of the platform to judge content on whether it’s offensive or whether it’s allowable. It should only be on those narrow cases of the legal materials.