Life as we know it is about to change in less than a nanosecond when 5G comes to neighborhoods in D.C. and across the U.S., and for some, it may be coming sooner than later. There’s good news and bad news.
The bad news surrounds the real concern that the rollout of the latest and fastest high-speed Internet technology providing wide-ranging capabilities and cellular adaptations could bypass communities of color, specifically Black people. We know the Digital Divide is real, and we implore the Black community not to ignore what’s coming, fail to prepare for it or remain ill-equipped to ask the right questions.
The good news is that those who are aware and focused on the potential of the new technology, will know what questions to ask to either welcome 5G with high expectations, or resist it until issues of safety, security, opportunities and equity are thoroughly vetted.
At a recent 5G and Communities of Color Town Hall sponsored by The Washington Informer and Washington Informer Charities, organizers were satisfied that their mission was accomplished when attendees announced they were leaving with more questions than answers about 5G to be later explored. It is imperative that all communities take a hard look at the impending deployment of the fifth-generation of cellular technology and assess for themselves the policy decisions being made about 5G before it reaches their front door.
D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who chairs the Committee on Transportation and the Environment, said at a roundtable on 5G in November 2018 that lasted nearly seven hours, “This is an exciting time in the District’s technological evolution.”
But, she acknowledged that District leaders, including advisory neighborhood commissioners, are limited in their ability to approve or disapprove aspects of 5G deployment, and she referred to the “FCC’s ruling [that] gives the federal government the power to decide how these local issues will play out, not the District” as an additional obstacle.
That’s why Montgomery County and other jurisdictions across the country are petitioning the federal courts to halt the national deployment of 5G and order the Federal Communications Commission to provide data on the safety of radio frequency emissions and its impact on human health. The FCC, according to the petition, has refused requests and is relying on 25-year-old R.F. exposure standards to determine the safety of 5G. The petitioners are concerned that these 1996 scientific standards may not adequately protect public health and safety today.
The fact is, the U.S. government has proclaimed it is in a “race to 5G” and it is determined to win against such countries as China, South Korea and Japan. To maintain its leadership position, the Trump administration has welcomed private sector technology companies to deploy 5G across the country with billions of dollars already having been invested in life-changing innovations enabling greater use of artificial intelligence, digital health, emergency communications, self-driving vehicles and smart cities.
There is no doubt that 5G is on its way. Thus, we encourage everyone to keep a watchful eye on its deployment, and explore the tremendous opportunities 5G presents, as well as generational consequences it could have.