Leave your feedback
The White House says the administration is searching for a solution on 5G deployment that will maintain “the highest level of safety while … minimizing disruptions to passenger travel.”
Watch the briefing in the player above.
The urgent search for a solution comes as the airline industry has issued dire warnings about the impact a new type of 5G service would have on flights. CEOs of the nation’s largest airlines said interference with aircraft systems would be worse than they originally thought, making many flights impossible.
The industry is in a showdown with AT&T and Verizon over the telecom companies’ plan to launch new 5G wireless service on Wednesday.
Speaking at the White House Tuesday, press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration is engaged in ongoing negotiations with both the airlines and telecom companies to reach an agreement that maximizes air travel safety while minimizing economic disruptions.
Psaki said if “hundreds or thousands of flights” are grounded, it would affect passengers and the shipping of cargo needed for the nation’s supply chain. “We want to avoid that and prevent it,” she said.
The new high-speed wireless service uses a segment of the radio spectrum, C-Band, that is close to that used by altimeters, which are devices that measure the height of aircraft above the ground. Altimeters are used to help pilots land when visibility is poor, and they link to other systems on planes.
AT&T and Verizon say their equipment will not interfere with aircraft electronics, and that the technology is being safely used in many other countries.
However, the CEOs of 10 passenger and cargo airlines including American, Delta, United and Southwest say that 5G will be more disruptive than earlier thought because dozens of large airports that were to have buffer zones to prevent 5G interference with aircraft will still be subject to of flight restrictions announced last week by the FAA. They add that those restrictions won’t be limited to times when visibility is poor.
The showdown between two industries and their rival regulators – the FAA and the FCC, which oversees radio spectrum – threatens to further disrupt the aviation industry, which has been hammered by the pandemic for nearly two years.
This was a crisis that was years in the making. The airline industry and the FAA say that they have tried to raise alarms about potential interference from 5G C-Band but the FCC has ignored them.
The telecoms, the FCC and their supporters argue that C-Band and aircraft altimeters operate far enough apart on the radio spectrum to avoid interference. They also say that the aviation industry has known about C-Band technology for several years but did nothing to prepare – airlines chose not to upgrade altimeters that might be subject to interference, and the FAA failed to begin surveying equipment on planes until the last few weeks.
READ MORE: White House soft-launches free COVID testing kit website
Psaki also spoke about Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s upcoming meeting with his Russian counterpart in Switzerland this week as tensions between the U.S. and Russia escalate over a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, the State Department said Tuesday.
The State Department said Blinken will travel to Kyiv on Wednesday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, move on to Berlin and then meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday. The hastily arranged trip aims to show U.S. support for Ukraine and impress on Russia the need for de-escalation.
Psaki underscored the urgency.
“We’re now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack in Ukraine. And what Secretary Blinken is going to go do is highlight very clearly there is a diplomatic path forward,” she said.
Psaki said Russian President Vladimir Putin created the crisis by massing 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders and it is up to him and the Russians to decide whether to invade and then “suffer severe economic consequences.”
The U.S. has not concluded whether Putin plans to invade or whether the show of force is intended to squeeze security concessions without an actual conflict. Russia has brushed off calls to withdraw its troops by saying it has a right to deploy its forces wherever it likes on its own territory.
Blinken’s meetings follow inconclusive diplomatic talks between Moscow and the West in Europe last week that failed to resolve stark disagreements over Ukraine and other security matters.
Instead, those meetings appear to have increased fears of a Russian invasion, and the Biden administration has accused Russia of preparing a “false flag operation” to use as a pretext for intervention. Russia has angrily denied the charge.
From Kyiv, Blinken will travel to Berlin, where he will meet with his German, British and French counterparts to discuss a possible response to any Russian military action. In Geneva on Friday, Blinken will be testing Lavrov on Russia’s interest in a “diplomatic off-ramp” for the crisis, a senior State Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
CIA Director William Burns visited Kyiv last Wednesday to consult with his Ukrainian counterparts and discuss current assessments of the risk to Ukraine, a U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss Burns’ schedule, which is classified. While there, he also discussed the current situation with Zelenskyy and efforts to de-escalate tensions.
Blinken spoke by phone Tuesday with Lavrov, discussing the diplomatic talks and meetings held last week. The State Department said Blinken “stressed the importance of continuing a diplomatic path to de-escalate tensions” surrounding the Russia-Ukraine situation and “reiterated the unshakable U.S. commitment” to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Support Provided By:
Subscribe to Here’s the Deal, our politics newsletter for analysis you won’t find anywhere else.
Thank you. Please check your inbox to confirm.
Additional Support Provided By: