Senate Discusses 5G Deployment

Advancing Policies to Accelerate Deployment of 5G 

On February 6, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing, “Winning the Race to 5G and the Era of Technology Innovation in the United States,” which emphasized the need to advance policies to accelerate deployment of 5G in order to keep America competitive on the international stage. The hearing featured testimony from five witnesses:  

  • Meredith Baker, President and CEO of CTIA (presented by CTIA Executive Vice President Brad Gillen) (testimony) 
  • Steve Berry, President and CEO of CCA (testimony) 
  • Shailen Bhatt, President CEO of Intelligent Transportation Society of America (testimony 
  • Michael Wessel, Commissioner at the U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission (testimony) 
  • Kim Zentz, CEO of Urbanova (testimony)

Important Topics for WIA Members Discussed During the Hearing 

Modernizing Infrastructure Siting Policies

Among other things, the hearing examined current efforts to modernize infrastructure siting policies. Spectrum is only useful if you have the infrastructure in place, Mr. Berry said, since it requires both macrotowers and small cells to put it to its most valuable use. To that end, “we must act to streamline barriers to infrastructure deployment,” including permitting and siting on federal lands, he said.  

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) raised his “STREAMLINE Act” from last Congress and said he would welcome the chance to reintroduce the bill again and that he and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) are in discussions. Sen. Thune also called for rules that facilitate deployment of small cells and cited the 21 states that are modernizing so that they can be the first to have 5G implemented. 

Accelerating Smart Cities 

Ms. Zentz focused on the role 5G plays in accelerating smart city applications that rely on high speed internet for more efficient operations. She noted the role cities play in assessing locally owned rights of way and said that policies must ensure equitable space allocation and spectrum management, coordination between cities, and secure networks. 

The Digital Divide 

Several Senators also discussed the need to address the digital divide, noting that 5G so far has meant densification in areas already-served by 4G, rather than deployment to underserved areas with 3G or less. They raised concerns that the excitement over 5G runs the risk of policymakers overlooking rural communities’ needs. They acknowledged it’s not always fiscally reasonable for private companies to deploy in those areas, and that though the Universal Service Fun is designed to address that, the fund is being depleted while the need for it are growing. Witnesses suggested one way to address this is through public-private partnerships, where Congress should look for opportunities to craft public-private policies, such as including it as part of an infrastructure package. 

Broadband Mapping 

Finally, several Senators and Mr. Gillen had exchanges about the need to improve broadband mapping accuracy to ensure infrastructure resources are deployed to areas that truly need it. More accurate mapping means fewer dollars wasted later. 

The preparation of 5G deployment requires the support of Congress during this innovative time in global history. WIA will stay on top this crucial issue and will continue to update its members.

More information and a full archived webcast can be found here