The FCC Gets It – Investing in Infrastructure is Investing in Our Future

The FCC continues to lead on 5G, the next generation of wireless service, taking commonsense steps to provide consumers and businesses access to high quality, high speed broadband across the country, from major cities to suburban and rural communities.

In addition to freeing up valuable airwaves and providing funding for networks in remote areas that would otherwise go unserved, the Commission has demonstrated a commitment to speed up the deployment of small cells—the wireless infrastructure needed to make 5G possible. Last March the FCC took an important initial step to update federal rules for the 5G era, and this week, the Commission will vote to improve outdated regulations once more.

Game-changing services and applications dependent on 5G will only be possible if the infrastructure it depends on is in place. TIA members build and deploy that infrastructure, so we know firsthand the importance for consumers and economic growth – at the national level and in local communities – of the infrastructure that will ensure America’s leadership in the global race to 5G.

The FCC clearly grasps the wireless infrastructure challenge and the negative effects unnecessary government red tape can produce. And the Commission, led by Commissioner Brendan Carr, is meeting that challenge head on.

In the first weeks of Commissioner Carr’s tenure I had the pleasure of joining him on a visit to Claremont, North Carolina, where he met with representatives from TIA member CommScope to discuss the economic opportunity and benefits next generation networks can provide—creating new jobs, improving access to education, and healthcare, to name a few. We commend Commissioner Carr for spending time on the factory floor learning firsthand how the technology works, and how communications manufacturers are innovating to reach a 5G world. And we thank the commissioner for spearheading the FCC’s effort to expand the reach of those networks.

One key area of Carr’s focus has been to streamline burdensome regulatory obligations for the deployment of small cell wireless infrastructure. The regulatory regime for 200-foot macro cell towers does not make sense for small cells, which are often the size of a backpack, that will power 5G connectivity. It’s estimated that 80 percent of all new deployments are going to be small cells. Yet, delays at the state and local level in many communities are simply due to the application of outdated rules not built for modern wireless infrastructure.

Built off of small cell reform legislation enacted in 20 states, Carr’s 5G Order establishes a national baseline for small cell deployment by cutting unreasonable regulatory fees and expediting time frames by which local governments must approve or disapprove deployment requests. Local governments will remain in charge of siting decisions, but they will need to act within the guardrails of a framework modeled on existing state efforts. The proposal is reasonable and necessary for the U.S. to remain the global leader in wireless.

By reducing the cost of small cell deployment, we increase the reach of revolutionary 5G networks. But what does 5G mean for everyday Americans? 5G will expand the reach of low-latency, high speed internet service to allow for a host of applications, transforming existing industries enhancing critical public safety communications, and lifesaving telemedicine services. Telehealth deployment has proven benefits. Communities that have access have better healthcare outcomes overall. For example, in Mississippi remote patient monitoring services have improved outcomes for diabetes patients who live in rural parts of the state.

Needless to say, 5G connectivity will expand the reach and impact of these proven services, offering speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G. Americans also stand to gain access to exciting and life-changing new technologies such as real-time augmented reality and wireless virtual reality, IoT devices, even clothes that provide training data for athletes, autonomous vehicles, and a host of other un-anticipatable advances.

Overall, 5G deployment is a tide—as it rises, consumers and businesses will reap the rewards. In turn, service providers will need workers to install these expansive networks, creating new job opportunities across the country. We don’t yet even know what all the benefits will be, but they will be significant. All of this progress lay ahead thanks to the FCC’s leadership, and its continued work to secure America’s position as the global leader on 5G.


About Cinnamon Rogers

Cinnamon Rogers is senior vice president of government affairs at the Telecommunications Industry Association.