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What's the Outlook for 5G in Rural States?

Given the promise of speeds 100 times faster than today’s, 5G providers have the ear of policymakers. But is it realistic in states like Nebraska?

Ed Toner
Ed Toner, CIO, Nebraska
e.republic/David Kidd
As the connectivity versus local control debate rages on, the prospect of 5G infrastructure blanketing the country remains a far-off concept in many areas. A growing number of cities are announcing partnerships with telecom providers, but many rural areas continue to struggle to connect their citizens at all. 

Earlier this year at the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) Midyear Conference in Baltimore, Kentucky CIO Charles Grindle discussed the possibility of bypassing fiber and broadband in order to connect the remaining 20 percent of his state that lacks Internet access. 5G, he said, should be considered, especially if the infrastructure can be installed at a lower cost than other options. 

Nebraska has a similar challenge, as CIO Ed Toner explains above. "4G would be great when you’re in far western Nebraska," Toner said, referring to some of the more remote areas of the state. 

But there may be reason for hope. The upcoming FirstNet network promises network infrastructure that will complement the state's existing efforts.

"FirstNet, we're hoping, is going to be a big boon to our rural communities because AT&T has given us a great map of where they're going to be in five years," he said.

Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter. Follow @GovTechNoelle