This month, Verizon flipped the switch on the first commercial 5G network in the world. Verizon’s 5G Home network, now live in parts of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento, serves as an example of the remarkable progress that can come from collaboration between local leaders and the private sector, as well as forward-looking policy enabling needed infrastructure modernization. It also serves as a signal to other cities that the race to 5G is on, and now more than ever, it’s crucial to keep up and not get left behind.

We’ve all heard about the revolutionary technology and capabilities that will come with 5G. Leaps including widespread use of autonomous vehicles, development of smart cities, and proliferation of telehealth will all become a reality thanks to next-generation networks that will offer near real-time speeds, increased battery life, reduced latency, and more data support. It also means opening doors of opportunity to communities in need of it most. Students at underserved inner city schools will receive more 21st-century training from inside the classroom, and farmers will be able to create meaningful efficiencies in day-to-day operations with smart irrigation and other sensor-enabled equipment. 

5G will not just be the latest and greatest; it will be the beginning of an entirely new journey. While we are clearly on our way, there remain obstacles to network deployment. Outdated regulations have resulted in a thorny host of issues in state and local areas including high fees, delays in approval, and deployment moratoria, which all impede investment and ultimately postpone consumer benefits. 

Some lawmakers and regulators from the local level on up have taken notice of these issues. Most recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) greenlighted an Order that strives to “reform the permitting process for small sells, the physical building blocks of 5G.” The new measure also limits fees for small cells and sets timelines for reviews. It is a promising step forward to establish a workable, commonsense framework that will make life better for millions of Americans through today’s digital capabilities.

The economic benefits are also worth mention. According to a new study, the FCC’s Order will save $2 billion in unnecessary costs and stimulate an additional $2.4 billion in infrastructure investment. Also, small cell infrastructure deployed will cover 1.8 million more homes and businesses, with notably 97% of that next-generation coverage concentrated in rural and suburban communities. Other reports also offer encouraging outlooks including analysis putting the benefits at $533 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) and $1.2 trillion in long-term consumer benefits.

5G also holds power to elevate our nation onto a new level of competition and leadership. In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, reporter Stu Woo assessed, “If the U.S. hadn’t led the way on 4G, the country might not dominate mobile technology, and its platforms, such as Instagram, Snapchat and perhaps even Facebook and Netflix might not have become global powers.” To maintain decades of world-changing American innovation, identifying areas of opportunity to ensure U.S. deployment of 5G is especially critical.

The race to turn the 5G light on broadly is well underway domestically and internationally, and it’s critical to keep momentum up. America has always been a beacon of possibility and dynamic transformation. Now, 5G promises us even more innovation, and with the right steps forward, we can introduce economic and social opportunities that will improve life as we know it. 

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