The protests followed a report, first obtained and reported on by news site Axios, that the Trump Administration is considering such a nationwide initiative, in part to prevent infiltration by China.
Axios cited a memo by a senior official as contending that the U.S. needs to quickly deploy 5G because China is in a top position with the technology and "is the dominant malicious actor" online. But a senior member of the National Security Council reportedly believes the USA would be under a greater cybersecurity threat from China if the federal government didn't have more control over the upcoming 5G networks.
Instead, Pai said the US government should make wireless airwaves, known as spectrum, more available for commercial carriers like AT&T and Verizon to deploy 5G networks.
Accenture, a leading technology outsourcing company, has estimated that wireless operators will invest as much as $275 billion in the United States over seven years as they build out 5G networks. Access to the network would then be rented to carriers like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile.
'We want to build a network so the Chinese can't listen to your calls, ' the senior official told Reuters.
The telecom industry, which is powerful in Washington, is already working on 5G, which heralds better internet on smartphones as well as potential applications for self-driving cars and other new technology.
Axios claimed it has seen documents that revealed security officials stating that the USA needs a centralized nationwide 5G network "to protect America against China and other bad actors".
It comes following a year in which security software firm Kaspersky has been accused of allowing itself to be compromised by Russia's security services, culminating in a presidential order to remove all Kaspersky products from federal government computers and networks.
Edison Lee, an equity analyst at Jefferies, said that plan "will only spark new debate in the U.S., which would give China even more advantage in its goal to become a leader in 5G".
He also said certain USA mobile network operators have already spent billions of dollars in buying mobile spectrum in the 600-megahertz frequency band for use in launching 5G services.
Trump administration wants to end ISS funding in 2025
The United States has spent almost $100 billion on the orbiting laboratory and has continually looked for ways to keep it flying. The US is committed to providing $US3-4 billion ($3.7-4.9 billion) funding towards the ISS through the year 2024.
"What government can and should do is to push spectrum into the commercial marketplace and set rules that encourage the private sector to develop and deploy next-generation infrastructure", Pai continued.
The 5G nationalization proposal also is likely to meet strong political headwinds at a time when some people already are concerned about what they see as increased government involvement in everyday life, or Big Brother-ism.
For example, the company built two data centers in Zimbabwe after the country got a $98m loan from China Export-Import Bank.
This month AT&T was forced to scrap a plan to offer its customers handsets built by China's Huawei after some members of Congress lobbied against the idea with federal regulators, sources told Reuters.
And how exactly would nationalizing this infrastructure make it more secure?
A debate in the Trump administration on the ways of building and funding such network, as well as the reaction from the industry, may be expected in the coming six to eight months, the news outlet suggested. "They're smart, they're aggressive, and they're not to be underestimated", he said.
How would you protect the United States against Chinese cyberattacks?
The document claims that "the current algorithm battles are slowly drifting in China's favor as companies like Google build Al research centers inside China's information sphere and world class data scientists mine the data (ours and theirs) without restraint".
The Trump administration's 5G plan comes on the heels of the scuttled smartphone distribution deal in the USA between Huawei Technologies and AT&T because of U.S. security concerns.
Government control of 5G infrastructure would be unprecedented and highly controversial, as the industry has traditionally been privately controlled.