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At State of the Net Event, Government Officials Stress Importance of 5G Win for Democracy

Adrienne Patton

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Sen. Roger Wicker speaking at the State of the Net by Adrienne Patton

WASHINGTON, January 28, 2020 – Winning the race for the 5G wireless standard will help in the preservation of democracy, legislators said, while also promoting privacy legislation on Tuesday at the State of the Net conference.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, stressed that rapid 5G deployment in the race against China important to protect economic security. McMorris Rodgers believes the greatest response and innovation comes from the private sector.

But McMorris Rodgers does support a national standard privacy that does not disincentivize startup companies and small business, she said.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss, echoed McMorris Rodgers’ concerns, and stressed bipartisan support and cooperation for a national privacy law.

Government should develop a strategy on the national level for artificial intelligence adoption across all sectors, said Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas.

AI raises ethical and security questions that can be addressed through regulation, Hurd said. He consented that network technology improves lives, but also “increases our surface area of attack,” said Hurd.

Hurd does not believe our educational system is effectively preparing the future workforce. Hurd said children should be preparing for “21st century jobs that don’t exist today.”

Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel veered away from the discussion about 5G and privacy to internet outages threatening democracy across the globe.

Imagine you are not here in Washington, Rosenworcel said, imagine you are in the Kashmir Valley in India, where the government blocked internet service for six months.

Rosenworcel shared the story of a newborn who died from heart irregularities, and because the doctor could not be reached through the internet outage, the baby died.

More internet shutdowns occurred in 2019 than any other year, said Rosenworcel. More than 120 shutdowns took place in 21 countries, she said. These shutdowns usually occur before or after an election, Rosenworcel stated.

While Rosenworcel admitted that the issue might seemed far removed from the United States, she called attention to the outdated nature of U.S. communication laws. Rosenworcel called for policies that would addressing government internet shutdowns.

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