As President Trump made clear in recent days, China has “used currency manipulation to steal our businesses and factories, hurt our jobs, depress our workers’ wages and harm our farmers’ prices.” When it comes to fighting for the forgotten men and women of America’s small-towns and rural communities, President Trump is determined to improve the quality of life for ordinary Americans.
While we are seeing a tremendous amount of progress, many in rural America in key swing states are feeling the pain due to the unintended consequences of an Executive Order ban on American companies doing business with the Chinese firm, Huawei. Huawei is the world’s largest telecommunications company and provides much of the 5G infrastructure to rural America. The blanket ban is creating uncertainty around solving the problem of rural broadband deployment in rural parts of my home state of Virginia.
Wide swaths of America’s heartland rely on mobile networks to access job opportunities and to stay in touch with loved ones. The smaller mobile carriers that service these parts of the country rely on Huawei and foreign equipment parts to expand 5G and 4G technology for civilian use. Simply put, the administration’s blanket ban on Huawei will have regrettable consequences for Virginian’s desperate need of broadband access.
We have seen our elected officials in the General Assembly invest tens of millions of dollars to help spur rural broadband deployment that bridges the digital divide. President Trump’s FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, has confirmed the president’s commitment to a rural renaissance, built on 21st century broadband access. 5G technology will play a necessary role as fiber-to-the-home is simply cost prohibitive in some parts of the country.
Given the needed role that 5G technology plays in brining rural America onto a level playing field with their urban neighbors, I believe we need a more surgical approach to the Huawei blanket-ban and other foreign equipment providers. While a blanket ban on Huawei and foreign equipment will seriously hurt Americans in rural areas and do little to stand up to China, there is a simple solution. Any surgical ban on equipment should solely focus on U.S. military software and not to disrupt the rollout of 5G technology across America’s heartland and in Virginia. Under President Trump’s leadership, we can ensure that 5G provides all Virginians, not just those living in the city, with high speed internet access. The currently proposed blanket ban will only serve to slow down the deployment of 5G technology to rural Americans.
Washington, D.C., is an enormous echo chamber and it is often forgotten in “The Swamp” that Americans living in small, rural communities lack the same broadband access as Americans in big cities. Thirty percent of rural Americans in key swing states don’t have access to 5G broadband technology, so any delay in rolling out broadband hurts rural Americans.
Due in part to my work on President Trump’s historic 2016 campaign victory, I know that the path to his reelection goes through small-town America and rural communities, particularly in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and this time, my home state of Virginia.
In Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faces a trickier reelection and support of a blanket Huawei ban that limits access to 5G and 4G technology for millions of families across the Commonwealth of Kentucky doesn’t mesh with all of the great things McConnell has done for his home state.
The president has kept his promises to voters so far. Our president has lowered our taxes, he has delivered great Supreme Court judges, he has been tough on immigration, and he has made America great again. Delivering 5G access would be yet another tremendous win rural America — and it will only further ensure that the rural voters who stood with President Trump in 2016, come out in droves again to help him secure reelection in 2020.
President Trump can continue to grow our economy, bolster our national security and win reelection easily if he keeps fighting for the forgotten men and women of America’s small towns and rural communities. Closing the internet access gap should not be delayed by a zero-tolerance policy that ties the hands of rural Americans. Rural communities in America’s heartland need 5G technology now, and the blanket ban on Huawei is hindering that.
Rubino served as a senior adviser to President Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in Virginia. He wrote this column for The News & Advance.