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FCC Passes 5G Upgrade Order Aimed at Lifting Rural Broadband

The upgrade will refresh and clarify language from a 2014 order that helped roll out 4G Internet across the nation. With the developments in 5G, some wireless builders have experienced delays with tower upgrades.

by Margaret Austin, Wyoming Tribune-Eagle / June 11, 2020

(TNS) — The Federal Communications Commission passed a 5G upgrade order Tuesday that aims to make installing 5G quicker and easier in smaller communities.

With a goal of narrowing the rural broadband gap, the order had support from agriculture associations and Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr.

“From our perspective at the FCC, the stakes are just way too high with 5G to have it be a privilege of living in a big city,” FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr told the Tribune Eagle. “So we’ve been focused on this digital divide, making sure that every community, including Cheyenne, has a fair shot at connectivity.”

The upgrade will refresh and clarify language from a 2014 order that helped roll out 4G internet across the nation. With the developments in 5G, some wireless builders have experienced delays with tower upgrades in recent years.

According to Orr, 5G connectivity is becoming increasingly important for evolving industries across the state, including health care, agriculture and technology.

“Having that high-speed connectivity is so incredibly critical for the economy, but then it’s also going to be very critical just as consumers,” Orr said.

Some Wyoming farmers regularly use blockchain technology to get higher prices for premium beef, and when COVID-19 reached Wyoming, health care providers offered telehealth visits for those who couldn’t reach a doctor.

While some in the state have taken advantage of advances in technology, others don’t have the same opportunities. Orr said the digital divide became even more prominent when Cheyenne schools were forced to move online due to coronavirus.

“Not every neighborhood in our community is as well-connected as the others, so it really creates a disadvantage for some folks,” Orr said.

Having a stable, high-speed internet connection allows students, residents and businesses to reach their full potential, whether it’s cattle farming or e-learning. 5G also is a useful tool as the state works to diversify its economy, focusing majorly on blockchain.

“With blockchain technology comes the need for rapid data sharing and being able to conduct transactions very quickly. Having that connectivity is something that we’ve been looking forward to, and I know certainly the blockchain community has been, as well,” Orr said.

According to Carr, the upgrade will increase broadband investment in rural America in two ways.

First, the new order streamlines the process for upgrading existing towers to 5G.

Second, by making it faster and more cost-effective to build out 5G in big cities, the order will open up more resources for wireless carriers to build in smaller towns. For big cities like San Jose and San Francisco, the carriers are charged a fee just to sit down and talk with local officials about 5G expansion.

According to Carr, the cost of discussing 5G upgrades can be as much as $1 million. Without having to pay those fees, carrier will have more capital to invest in smaller communities.

“Where does that million dollars come from? It comes from the capital budgets, often, of carriers. That means the smaller, rural communities then don’t have the capital left over to build out theirs,” Carr said.

©2020 Wyoming Tribune-Eagle (Cheyenne, Wyo.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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