Gurr: Forest Grove and the 5G imperative
Broadband has become a crucial tool that Americans rely on in their daily lives. With increasing internet speeds reaching further into communities, many Oregon residents have been able to reap the benefits of a high-speed connection for everyday activities like job searching, entertainment and educational opportunities.
As technology continues to advance, the next generation of broadband networks, known as 5G, will revolutionize the way we use the internet.
We recently hosted a discussion with U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon's First Congressional District, local legislators, business and city leaders in Forest Grove. The event was covered in the Forest Grove News-Times.
There is a clear consensus that connectivity is vital for economic growth and opportunity. However, getting there will require substantial investment, and broadband providers are looking to policymakers to streamline the process and provide some certainty.
5G networks are designed to be exponentially faster and more efficient than the current 4G mobile networks. This growth will mean a new trend towards smart cities and homes, connected and self-driving vehicles, advancements in healthcare that allow for remote surgery and reliable monitoring of patients from afar, the automation of agriculture processes, and much more.
For rural residents who must travel several hours to reach a medical specialist, using next-generation mobile technology to be monitored remotely or consult a healthcare provider via video conference could relieve some of those costs and logistical challenges. For students, 5G will facilitate access to the best learning opportunities, even if they're located halfway around the world.
The challenge is not in finding practical applications for 5G, but rather the deployment of these networks. Bringing 5G to consumers will be costly. But government must also do its part to ease regulations so that 5G deployment can be realized.
And the benefits of 5G go far beyond new consumer applications; Qualcomm has predicted that in 2035, at its full economic benefit, 5G could produce $13.2 trillion worth of goods and services and support up to 22.3 million global jobs.
If we intend to ensure that the U.S. and Oregon are at the forefront of 5G, certain regulatory barriers must be addressed. A few steps that should be taken by local and federal regulators are:
• Create a clear and streamlined process for permitting network buildouts. Scarce investment dollars are being re-allocated to other states as standards and costs vary from city to city in Oregon, costing time and money.
• End the regulatory back-and-forth related to federal standards for an open internet. Congress needs to enact bipartisan legislation codifying open internet principles that prohibit blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. Such legislation would lay out clear rules for internet providers.
• Modernize the FCC's broadband mapping process; bipartisan legislation on broadband mapping is currently working its way through Congress. If passed, state legislators, municipal leaders and providers can make more informed decisions about where to spend scarce resources.
• It's important that our policymakers and citizens recognize that to realize the benefits of 5G, there must be some tradeoffs. Loosening restrictions and creating regulatory certainty via thoughtfully crafted bipartisan efforts will encourage more investment in networks and infrastructure, which will benefit all Americans.
5G will be a game-changer, but to get there, we've got to work together to ensure that the necessary investments are made possible.
Tom Gurr is executive director of the Pacific Technology Alliance, a political advocacy group that supports the expansion of broadband internet and wireless connectivity.
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