Op-EdOpinion

SMITH: We Need Next-Generation Mobile to Succeed

People of color, particularly African-Americans and Latinos, depend on mobile technologies and wireless broadband service more than most other Americans. Foremost among those services that promise to radically reshape our lives, our cities, and our communities is 5G, which is shorthand for the next generation of of mobile networks.

5G is predicted to be a disruptive force across just about every sector of the economy. Thus, it is critical that communities of color understand the benefits of rapidly deploying these advanced wireless networks. Any delay in deployment will be felt disproportionately in communities of color, particularly those areas ace the daily struggles of poverty and economic exclusion. Access to 5G can transform the health care space by making real-time, responsive medical services available to anyone with a smartphone and possibly addressing chronic health disparities, such as diabetes and heart disease. Access to 5G can accelerate minority entrepreneurship for minority and women-owned businesses that want to extend their reach globally through the power of the internet.

These new networks are also expected to create 3 million new jobs. With minority unemployment still lingering far above the national rate, these jobs offer unique opportunities for people of color, where new apprenticeship programs can help individuals gain the expertise needed to fill these positions.

Getting to a 5G world will require reforms to the laws and policies impacting the construction of these networks that are primarily systems comprised of a widely distributed, smaller antennas across communities. If current practices are applied to the requests for deploying 5G equipment, construction could be slowed to a crawl because each application would have to be reviewed individually or new fees could be assessed by cities.

Though many states have passed bills to address these issues in an effort to facilitate 5G, there is increasingly a recognition at the federal level that congressional action might be necessary to provide certainty and consistency across the country. A bipartisan effort by Sens. John Thune (R-South Dakota) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) have circulated draft legislation intended to accelerate 5G deployment that is worth review and consideration.

In their attempt to prevent unnecessary barriers to accessing and installing 5G equipment, the Thune-Schatz draft bill provides an opportunity to find a reasonable middle-ground between facilitating 5G deployment and upholding state and local autonomy to manage public infrastructure on the other.

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is very optimistic about 5G’s promise and benefit to our local, national and global economies. People of color will stand to profoundly benefit from the many new services and applications that 5G enables. As such, rapid deployment of these advanced networks should be one of America’s priorities so that all people and their communities can benefit.

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity. The organization is headquartered at 930 E. 50th Street in Chicago. To learn more about the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, please visit www.rainbowpush.org, or telephone 773-373-3366. For more information about the Peachtree Street Project and the Create Opportunity Conference, please call the number listed above.

Smith is executive director of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s Public Policy Institute and Media/Telecom Project.

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