Georgia Consumers Will Benefit From Cooperative 5G Siting Regulations

Governor Kemp has a bill to sign in Georgia, if encouraging the next generation of broadband, 5G, is important to his state. It should be and here is what is at stake. 5G is a wireless service about 70 times faster than today’s broadband network. The 5G network capacity will accommodate far more connections that are available today.

In the wider community, 5G will support the operation of driverless vehicles to transport people and goods. Telemedicine will operate between clinics, patients and physicians with crisp video, sound, telemetry and secure patient records transport. More of us will work from home, taking advantage of shared project databases and full video connections with our coworkers and clients.

5G will carry video, voice, monitoring data, and industrial signaling for coordination of manufacturing processes. 5G will support home security and home services management. It will allow families to control temperature, lighting, air flow, entry access, alarm control, visual monitoring, conversations between rooms and family members or between devices and people off premises.

What used to be appointment TV and movies will morph into TV and movies at your convenience.   Educational courseware will continue its migration into education on your schedule, probably orchestrated by a robotic tutor with great patience. Rare for education, the cost and administrative burden should trend lower. These applications will be possible due to the low latency, huge capacity, and high speed of 5G networks.

Nationwide, the $326 billion of 5G infrastructure investment is underway . It should be completed by 2026, but only a small part is in place so far in Georgia. The 5G network uses fiber optic trunk lines (so called “backhaul”) that connect it to the internet, other network types, communities, and cities. Those fiber optic lines are in turn connected to local area radio networks that are centered on about one million shoebox-sized devices called “small cells” that process and transmit wireless data at lightning speeds.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is helping by making available appropriate spectrum for those small cells. It plans for spectrum auctions later this year for the upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz spectrum bands.

Because a few state and local jurisdictions were taking inordinate lengths of time to approve small cell placements – even blocking investment – the FCC has suggested a shot clock approach, and batch processing to right-size the time that commissions allot themselves for review and approval of permits. Likewise, a few jurisdictions invented outrageously high fees that would apply to a small cell siting and a right of way permit. Some commissioners sought local right of way fees as high as $45,000.

Ignored by these egregious delays and charges is the welfare of the consumer. Consumers benefit from the 5G network in the form of superior employment, transportation options, education and medical services and outstanding entertainment and personal communications. Slowing the local area deployment of 5G harms local consumers the most. If the regulations are seen as antagonistic, those investing in 5G networks are likely to invest more elsewhere, and that would be an economic disadvantage for consumers and employers that the commissioners hope to serve.

A substantial payoff to Georgia’s consumers will flow from streamlining regulations for the permitting and siting of small cells in local Georgia communities. There is now a bill that would streamline regulations and encourage deployment of this next generation technology, but it waits for the governor’s signature.

The American Consumer Institute estimated the benefits for Georgia would be $8.74billion of 5G investments in Georgia, an additional $17.67 billion in additional Georgia gross state product, $5.3 billion in employment earnings, and 16,063 additional jobs per year. Consumers would experience $39.4 billion in benefits from 5G services.

When they understand the 5G issues, commissioners usually vote in favor of progress. Already 21 states have streamline regulations and harmonized the fees and procedures between jurisdictions. There is plenty of room for others to act constructively. Now it’s time for Georgia Governor Kempt to do the same.

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