Don’t Stifle Consumer Broadband Benefits

Modernization of American infrastructure – which will yield great innovation and economic growth – is dependent upon deregulation. Coming off the Obama administration’s infamous overregulation agenda, the current administration has made it its mission to reverse course. From the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation, there is a concerted effort to break down regulatory roadblocks that hindered U.S. infrastructure capabilities.

The most recent example of this anti-regulatory, pro-growth agenda is the Federal Communications Commission’s new plan designed to incentivize the transition to next-generation networks known as “5G” in states across the country. Specifically, the proposal seeks to modernize the permitting process for new wireless infrastructure. This is good news for consumers. A streamlined process will allow wireless companies to more efficiently deploy new technologies that will not only enhance existing 4G wireless networks, but also lay the foundation for 5G and the many benefits it will bring to more cities and towns.

Driverless cars, apps that monitor every aspect of our health, immersive virtual reality platforms, smart homes—all of these will be possible with 5G. This is because this new network will use “small cell technology” that will be attached to posts, streetlights and the like. These tiny yet powerful sensors will be able to relay data signals and communication at near-instantaneous speeds, and drastically cut latency (buffer time of content).

Unfortunately, many states’ current regulatory schemes are making it increasingly difficult to deploy small cells in a timely, cost-effective manner. Lengthy delays, costly assessment fees, distance restrictions, aesthetic requirements, discriminatory zoning policies, and a host of other rules contribute to high costs that discourage investment. These unnecessary barriers are preventing some states from benefiting from the latest technological advancements.

A recent study conducted by the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research demonstrates that investing in 5G in Missouri, for example, would provide significant economic benefits, including a $9.8 billion increase in gross state product over a 7-year period and the creation of 8,800 jobs annually.

Importantly, these figures only reflect the benefits from the investment needed to build and deploy 5G service in Missouri. They do not include the ongoing benefits Missourians would enjoy once the network becomes operational, including more than $22.5 billion in additional consumer welfare benefits.  You can see similar state-by-state data at the Lost Economy.

More than a dozen states have already taken steps to streamline their regulatory processes and reduce barriers to 5G technology, and many more are considering similar legislation. This is the result of lawmakers around the U.S. realizing that jurisdictions with a favorable regulatory structure are likely to be the first targets for investment and, in turn, will be the first to see significant economic and consumer benefits from 5G technology.

The Missouri Legislature is currently considering legislation (Senate Bill 837) to address these problems by harmonizing regulations across the state.  If Missouri does not act soon, the other twenty states that have enacted similar legislation will.  That will put the state in last place for wireless broadband deployment, and it will have significant repercussions on Missourians who demand these wireless broadband services.

Missouri’s current laws hamstring service providers seeking to deploy 5G technology in a timely and cost-effective way. Left as they are, these policies will hurt Missourians by delaying technological upgrades that would stimulate Missouri’s economy, create thousands of jobs, and offer substantial consumer benefits. As such, statewide legislation to remove regulatory obstacles and promote small cell microsites is urgent.

Lawmakers in Jefferson City should ensure their constituents remain connected and competitive in our modern economy. That is why they should act now, and open to the doors to Missouri’s promising technology future.

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