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A Government-Controlled 5G Network Could Have Long-Lasting Effects on Society

New 5G Network

On January 29, 2018 Futurism reported that the Trump administration had plans to build its own 5G network. According to documents initially acquired by Axios, the administration would both pay for and build the network itself. The 5G network would serve to safeguard the country against China’s suspected ability to spy on phone calls placed in the United States.

According to Axios, it would still be another six to eight months before President Trump would be able to sign off on such a plan. But only hours after Axios revealed the plan, government officials like Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), spoke out against a government-run 5G network.

“Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future,” Pai said in a statement.

However the discussion surrounding the Trump Administration’s prematurely revealed plans may be moot, as Recode — citing multiple White House officials — reports the documents detailed by Axios are outdated. Those officials asserted that the U.S. government is not actively seeking to construct and control its own 5G network.

“[The White House officials] also stressed it had merely been floated by a staff member, not a reflection of some imminent, major policy announcement — and probably might never be,” wrote Recode’s Tony Romm.

Potential Impacts

Still, as Recode noted, the very existence of the documents reveals just how concerned President Trump and some of his aides are when it comes to China stealing sensitive information from the U.S. And while the White House has said there’s nothing in the works pertaining to a 5G network, the idea is now out there, and people are free to speculate what the impacts such a network would have on American citizens and society.

If the Trump Administration followed through on these now outdated plans, it would represent an unprecedented shift in the industry, as U.S. telecommunications have been largely private up to this point. One of the main reasons to repeal net neutrality, was to free the internet from existing government regulations — despite the benefits that federal oversight provides, and concerns over its impending absence.

As Business Insider points out, if a government-controlled network existed, wireless companies would need to rent the right to broadcast network signals and rent the technology to do so. It’s possible these sudden rental costs would be reflected in the monthly costs people pay for mobile networks and internet speeds.

To get a sense of what living with a government-controlled network would be like, though, we can look at how other nations handle mobile internet plans. According to Slate, the European Union (EU) and countries like Guatemala restrict certain apps to specific mobile internet plans and SIM cards. In Portugal, though the country is bound by the EU’s net neutrality rules, there are various pricing schemes based on users’ app preferences.

And not all nations always uphold communication freedoms. In 2016, Morocco placed a ban on internet calls made using apps like Skype, WhatsApp, and Facebook, though the ban was lifted sometime later. In China, services like Twitter, Gmail, and sites criticizing certain political parties and subjects are censored or outright banned. However last year NPR reported that Chinese cyber official Wang Jianchao said, “China’s internet is fully open,” and that Chinese government “protects citizens’ freedom of speech according to the law.”

Kill Switch

One of the more extreme cases that could happen under a government-controlled 5G network would be the government’s ability to cut off the internet. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) once had plans for a “kill switch” that was revealed to the public in 2013. As reported by Mother Jones, the plan would allow the government to “disconnect commercial and private wireless networks… in the event of an emergency, such as a viable threat of a terrorist attack.” The DHS has not followed through on those plans in the last five years.

While it might be beneficial to have a kill switch in place, it’s easy to imagine a situation in which networks were disconnected by accident, similar to the recent missile warning that mistakenly went out in Hawaii.

Ultimately, though, concerns about the consequences of a government-run network might be academic. If Recode’s sources in the White House are correct, we won’t have to worry about the government controlling cellular and internet connections. That said, the U.S. telecommunications landscape could change drastically in the coming years if net neutrality isn’t restored.

Service providers in a non-neutral internet setting that can dictate how fast certain sites load and how much you have to pay for them, may seem relatively inconsequential compared to the idea of a wholly government-run network. But both portend significant changes to how U.S. citizens might interact with the internet, and the future of the telecommunications industry.

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How Russia and the United States nearly started a nuclear war in 1995

The Norwegian meteorological rocket incident remains the only time in history that the Russian president has activated his nuclear briefcase.

On January 25, 1995, Doomsday could have come in the world: the Russian Federation was preparing to launch a nuclear strike on the United States. How did it come about that the states that left the confrontation of the Cold War in the past and had just normalized relations with each other found themselves on the verge of mutual destruction?

The beginning of the war?

The cause of the crisis was an ordinary Norwegian meteorological rocket. Its launch from the small island of Anneia at 7 am local time (10 am Moscow time) towards Spitsbergen caused a stir in Russia. 

Black Brant XII.

Black Brant XII. Legion Media / ZUMA Press

Equipped with scientific equipment to study the aurora borealis, the Black Brant XII was similar in size to the nuclear-powered American Trident D-5 ballistic missile, intended for launch from submarines. In addition, it flew along a trajectory along which, as the Russian Defense Ministry believed, American missiles would fly in the event of a nuclear war. 

In December 1994, Norway informed 28 states, including Russia, about the planned launch, but did not give a specific date, limiting itself to specifying the period: from January 15 to February 10 of the next year. Due to bureaucratic delays, this information did not reach the Russian Missile Warning System, which sounded the alarm.

Decisive minutes

An emergency meeting with the country’s top political and military leadership was convened in the Kremlin. Defense Minister Pavel Grachev, Chief of the General Staff Mikhail Kolesnikov and President of the Russian Federation (as Supreme Commander-in-Chief) Boris Yeltsin had three strategic missile forces control terminals activated – the so-called nuclear suitcases.

Vladimir Sayapin / TASS

The military believed the lone missile could have been fired to create an electromagnetic pulse that knocked out Russian radars and communications systems. Following it, a massive blow could be expected.

For several tense minutes, as leaders watched it flight, it was decided whether Russia would launch a nuclear strike against the United States. 

“Little is known today about what Yeltsin said at the time, given that it could have been some of the most dangerous moments in the entire history of the nuclear era,” The Washington Post journalist, David Hoffman wrote three years after the incident : “They make it clear that the Cold War nuclear readiness system continues to operate, and how catastrophic its consequences could be, despite the fact that the feud between the great powers is already over.”   

The situation was discharged only when it became clear that the rocket had gone towards Spitsbergen (not far from which it fell into the ocean). The nuclear cases have been deactivated. Russian President Boris Yeltsin (center) and Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev (right).

Russian President Boris Yeltsin (center) and Russian Defense Minister Pavel Grachev (right). Igor Mikhalev / Sputnik

The incident with bringing Russia’s Strategic Nuclear Forces to combat readiness, soon became the property of the world community. When, four years later, the Norwegians were about to repeat their launch of Black Brant XII and reported this to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the US additionally warned all key Russian military departments about it through their channels. As a result, this time there were no unpleasant surprises. 


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Germany conducted exercises in case of nuclear war

Bundeswehr / Birthe Brechters

The Bundeswehr with partners in the North Atlantic Alliance ( NATO) trained in operations in a nuclear war.

The German army, together with Italian, Belgian and Dutch colleagues, conducted exercises in the event of a conflict with the use of nuclear weapons.

The location of the exercise “Steadfest Noon” was chosen airbase “Nörfenich”, where the tactical squadron of the Luftwaffe 31 “Boelcke” is located. Together with the Luftwaffe of the Bundeswehr, the air forces of other NATO countries, in particular, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, took part in the exercises.

According to a report by Bild, the exercise scenario involved training procedures for safely removing nuclear weapons from storage, delivering ammunition and installing them on aircraft. The training flights took place without nuclear weapons, and in parallel with the aviation exercises at the Büchel airbase, where the tactical squadron of the Luftwaffe 51 Immelman is located, the Resilient Guard air defense systems were trained to protect the airfield from air attacks.

The training sites for the Luftwaffe of the Bundeswehr were not chosen by chance, since the Nörfenich airbase is a reserve storage site for the B61, a hydrogen bomb that forms the basis of nuclear weapons of the US strategic nuclear forces. 

Some of this ammunition is stationed at NATO bases in Europe. The exact number of hydrogen bombs that are stored at European sites and which ones are not reported. In Europe, the B61 is carried by Panavia Tornado fighter-bombers (pictured) and General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters.

Recall that the B61 thermonuclear bomb is the main weapon of the US strategic nuclear forces, although it entered service in 1968. Since 2012, a new guided version of the B61-12 has been under development, which will replace all B61 and B83 bombs that have been in service since 1983. It can be used both on strategic bombers and tactical aircraft. About two billion dollars were spent on the development of the 12th modification of the aerial bomb.

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The Pentagon wants to use 5G for military purposes

© Al Drago; George Frey/Reuters

The US military has partnered with more than a dozen companies for “large-scale experiments” with 5G technology, including efforts to increase the “lethality” of certain systems, as part of a $ 600 million project. 

Duplicating 5G technology as the “Founding Tool for Modernizing All US Defense,” the Pentagon announced a massive research initiative on Thursday that will donate hundreds of millions of dollars to 15 private contractors to conduct tests at five US military sites.

 “The Department of Defense today announced a $ 600 million award for 5G experiments and testing at five US military training grounds, representing the world’s largest full-scale 5G trials for dual-use applications,” the Pentagon said in a statement that it will bring together experts from multiple industries and disciplines. 

Projects will include piloting 5G-enabled augmented / virtual reality for mission planning and training, testing 5G-enabled smart warehouses, and evaluating 5G technologies to improve distributed management and control.

Selected for the project include telecommunications companies AT&T, Nokia and Ericsson, exploration and information technology contractor Booz-Allen Hamilton, research arm of General Electric, GE Research and a subsidiary of aerospace giant General Dynamics.

One initiative, led by AT&T at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, will apply 5G to its “Distributed Command and Control” system to “Assist in lethality in the air, space and cyberspace”, improving communications for mobile command posts in combat scenarios. At the Lewis-McCord joint base in Washington State, AT&T will also work with Booz-Allen and two other firms to develop 5G-enabled virtual reality technology for training, mission planning, and even Operational Use. 

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