AT&T, Verizon Reject Biden Admin’s Request To Delay 5G Launch Due To Flight Safety Concerns

Update (1320ET): In a shocking turn of events in this age of ‘obey or be canceled’ culture, AT&T and Verizon have rebuffed a request from federal transportation officials to delay the launch of new 5G wireless services.

“Your proposed framework asks that we agree to transfer oversight of our companies’ multi-billion dollar investment in 50 unnamed metropolitan areas representing the lion’s share of the U.S. population to the FAA for an undetermined number of months or years,” Verizon Chief Executive Officer Hans Vestberg and AT&T’s John Stankey wrote.

“Even worse, the proposal is directed to only two companies.”

The wireless executives said agreeing to the proposal would be “an irresponsible abdication of the operating control required to deploy world-class and globally competitive communications networks.”

The wireless executives said they are “committed to continue” cooperation with transportation interests “on the condition that the FAA and the aviation industry are committed to doing the same without escalating their grievances, unfounded as they are, in other venues.”

Instead they offered a counter-proposal that would allow limited deployments to move forward this week.

Specifically, the CEOs of the two telecommunications giants also said in a joint letter Sunday that they would be willing to commit to a six-month pause in deployment near certain airports that will be selected in negotiations with U.S. officials and the aviation industry.

As Bloomberg reports, the wireless industry said power levels are low enough to preclude interference, and the gap between frequencies is sufficiently large to ensure safety.

The question is – will this cause the “widespread and unacceptable disruption” to flights that Buttigieg claimed or was that just more fearmongering by the administration?

*  *  *

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has officially asked major cell carriers like Verizon and AT&T to hold off on a new 5G project, citing airlines who say the technology could “pose a safety risk” by interfering with aircraft electronics.

Buttigieg and Steve Dickson, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration penned a letter on Friday stating that in the absence of action, airlines could wind up forced into “widespread and unacceptable disruption,” Bloomberg reported.

Joke’s on Mayor Pete, though: doesn’t he know airlines are already suffering from widespread and unacceptable discussion?

The 5G projects could wind up causing airplanes to be diverted from airports, “causing ripple effects throughout the U.S. air transportation system,” the letter said, requesting a two week delay on implementation of the new wireless service.

The Federal Communications Commission now finds itself at odds with the FAA after authorizing the 5G service that it said caused “no threat to safety”. 

Altitude-sensing devices called radar altimeters are at the center of the debate. The instruments work on frequencies that are “close to those assigned to the new 5G service,” Bloomberg wrote. The FAA warned on December 23 that the devices could “malfunction” as a result.

Meanwhile, the wireless industry has been arguing that “power levels are low enough to preclude interference”.

The requested two week delay would be used to “identify airports where a buffer zone would permit flights to continue safely” in the interim. 

The letter read: “This proposal minimizes and spreads the short-term economic and operational burden while permanent fixes are rapidly put into place. It will still involve significant disruptions for aviation operations in the U.S., but represents a much better way forward than the current trajectory.”

“Failure to reach a solution by Jan. 5 will force the U.S. aviation sector to take steps to protect the safety of the traveling public, particularly during periods of low visibility or inclement weather,” it concludes.

Verizon and AT&T are still reviewing the letter, which Verizon said it received at 6PM on New Year’s Eve. 

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