Digital Divide 2.0

The Key To The Future Of Self-Driving Cars: 5G

By Mike Montgomery

It’s been six years since Nevada became the first state to allow self-driving cars. Since 2012, we have seen an additional twenty-one states pass legislation related to autonomous vehicles – including several bills in California.

While autonomous technology is still largely in its infancy, we’re still a long way from the imagined future of people sitting back and reading the paper while their car drives them to work.

In addition to the obvious convenience-oriented benefits, there are serious safety and economic implications tied to self-driving cars. In 2016 alone, 40,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents – with distracted driving or human error being the top cause. According to a report from Strategy Analytics, driverless-vehicles could save an estimated 585,000 lives.

Saving lives and limiting traffic accidents are undoubtedly the biggest benefits of autonomous technology, but the economic benefits can’t be ignored. The same report from Strategy Analytics, noted that autonomous vehicles could become a $7 trillion industry by 2050 and could save as much as 250 million hours of commuting time around the globe.

Considering the massive benefits of self-driving vehicles, the natural question becomes, “where do we currently stand?”

In short, we have seen some progress over the past 6 years. Today, a driverless eight-passenger van is making the rounds of downtown Las Vegas, and similar shuttles are popping up around the country. Uber is testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh and Waymo, a Google spinoff, is offering self-driving taxi rides in Phoenix.

However, there are still more than a handful of barriers to broad deployment.

Let’s start with the less concerning reason – public perception. The self-driving car industry isn’t developing at the anticipated pace, at least in part, due to consumer angst. A recent AAA survey showed that 73% of American drivers say they would be too scared to ride in an autonomous vehicle, up from 63% a year ago. The uptick in apprehension is likely due to some recent high-profile mishaps, but overall the mistrust of the new technology is largely emotional and not data driven. Nonetheless, this is still an issue facing the industry.

Writing in Fortune, Eric Ellis of consulting firm Kotter, says that in order to overcome this reluctance, autonomous car companies have to slowly earn peoples’ trust. And while most people may not acknowledge it, we are already giving more control to our cars through lane departure assist, blind spot detection and self-parking features.

It is likely that autonomous vehicles will follow a similar adoption and perception cycle as the smart phone. When Steve Jobs released the first iPhone 11 years ago, there was no shortage of skeptics. Most infamously, former Microsoft CEO and current Clippers owner, Steve Ballmer said of the iPhone, “[t]here’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” Much to Ballmer and other skeptic’s dismay, by 2011, 35% of the population owned a smart phone and today a whopping 77% of the population uses a smart phone.

This leads us to the bigger problem — our communications infrastructure needs to be modernized. Specifically, we must deploy next generation wireless infrastructure to support the colossal amount of data required to power autonomous vehicles. For self-driving cars to be able to react appropriately, they must have instant access to information about the environment and be able to share and receive information with other self-driving cars on the road. The average autonomous vehicle will use around 4,000 GB of data a day.

While today’s 4G network can support a small amount of these vehicles, self-driving cars cannot be deployed at scale until our networks are made much denser, and ultimately transition from 4G to 5G. Obviously, having a self-driving car “buffer” or “lag” like a video download on a mobile device is not an option.

Infrastructure upgrades, particularly network densification via small cells underpinned by high-capacity fiber optic cable, are crucial to making our autonomous future a reality. You see, small cells will serve as the backbone and fiber will serve as the life-blood for future wireless networks such as 5G. According to tests conducted by technology giant Qualcomm, 5G will be 20 times faster, support 100 times the network capacity and reduce end-to-end latency by 10 times. This type of speed and efficiency provided by 5G is the key to the future of self-driving cars.

However, small cell and fiber deployment, much like autonomous vehicle progress, is not happening fast enough. The reality is, we will need thousands of small cells connected by thousands of route miles of fiber for our mobile networks to reach their full potential.

Prioritizing communications infrastructure buildout now is not only fundamental to speeding the adoption of self-driving cars, but enabling countless innovations that stand to make our communities smarter and safer through the power of 5G.

Cities Shouldn’t Wait For 5G To Install Small Cell Antennas

By Mike Montgomery

It’s hard to remember, but a little more than a decade ago flip phones were the height of mobile phone innovation. Texting via a numerical keypad was all the rage and only a handful of mobile devices could even access the internet.

The difference between that time and today is remarkable. Now we do everything on our phones – staying in touch with friends via video chat, keeping up with family on social media, banking and even watching movies. A lot of these advances have come from improved device technology, but many have come from upgrades to the networks that power our devices to make room for the extra data needed to keep us hyper-connected.

For many of us, 4G isn’t the marvel it used to be. Dropped calls, slow downloads and sinking number of bars have become more prevalent as we continue to add more and more devices to our wireless networks. And guess what? Our networks are going to continue to get more crowded – according to projections, in North America alone mobile data traffic will reach 6.4 Exabytes per month by 2021.

The good news is, there is a solution to our capacity problems, and that solution is already underway – upgrade both our network and the infrastructure that powers it. Let’s start with the network upgrade. The next evolution of our mobile networks will be 5G, but in reality 5G will be more of a revolution.

You see, 5G is expected to be 100 times faster and support 100 times the capacity of 4G. The benefits to users are obvious – instantaneous video downloads, fewer dropped calls, zero lag in live video – but 5G will also be a major boost for the U.S. economy. Accenture predicts that 5G will bring with it $500 billion in GDP growth by making smart cities a reality. 5G is the key to faster speeds and more connections points, which will ultimately help cities use less energy through smart grids, limit commute times and traffic fatalities by powering self-driving cars, allow cities to deploy sensors that will instantaneously alert police to things like gunshots, and help make emergency services more efficient.

However, 5G is not available to the public yet and the rollout of the network will take several years, which obviously doesn’t do much for our immediate capacity issue. What will help immediately, and is also an absolute necessity to making 5G a reality, is the modernization of our communications infrastructure.

While we wait for the 5G revolution, cities can begin to reap the immediate 4G boosting benefits of new wireless antennas known as small cells. Small cells are exactly what they sound like, small, low-powered nodes located near the end user that add much needed capacity to existing 4G networks while simultaneously laying the groundwork for 5G – small cells will literally serve as the backbone of 5G networks. Thanks to their size and ability to be camouflaged, small cells can be placed on utility poles, traffic lights, even under the seats in a stadium.

London is already doing this – building out a network of small cells to improve 4G coverage in the city. According to Techradar:

“As the finance capital of Europe, it was seen as unacceptable to have poor mobile coverage thanks to the numerous tall buildings blocking signals. Small cells were identified as the ideal solution.”

London expects to have 400 small cells by March 2019.

The essential point, small cells help bridge the gap between 4G and 5G while improving the customer experience right away. Installing a robust small cell network now is a rare win-win for cities by allowing them to deal with the immediate growth of data traffic – which climbed 238% in the last two years alone – while laying the groundwork for 5G.

Mobile Connectivity Key To More Reliable Emergency Communications

mudslide

By Mike Montgomery

Today, the overwhelming majority of Americans own a mobile phone (95%), with three-quarters of us owning smartphones. Whether we’re ordering dinner or a ride home, apps on our phones always seem to know our location. It is a common misconception, however, that because apps like Lyft and Postmates know where we are, that in emergency situations, first responders will also be able to find us.

The truth is far more complicated. Our apps know where we are because of opt-in location services on our devices. Ride sharing services, for example, use GPS, cellular and Wi-Fi access points to pinpoint your location. But when calling 911 from your cell phone, the emergency operator will more than likely not know your exact location because the only information your phone transmits to the operator is the Caller ID and location of the nearest cell tower that is connecting the call. It is mind-boggling to think that more often than not, your pizza delivery person has more accurate location information than the paramedics – especially when you consider the fact that upwards of 80% of 911 calls originate from a mobile device.

Additionally, mobile communication plays a huge role in disaster mitigation. Mobile alerts are used to warn the public about dangerous weather, missing persons, natural disasters and other critical situations – an absolute necessity as more than 50% of households have abandoned their landline. Even the FCC has called wireless emergency alerts “an essential part of America’s emergency preparedness”.

Most municipalities have systems in place to alert residents of pending danger but often these systems require residents to know they exists (hint: many do not) and opt-in. And sometimes these systems fail – alerts come too late, or not at all. That’s what happened in Santa Barbara in January when mudslides wiped out hundreds of homes and killed at least 20 people. Residents in the evacuation areas said they never saw the mobile alerts. The state experienced similar problems late last year when trying to alert people to evacuate from massive fires in Santa Barbara and Napa Valley.

There is no denying the direct correlation between public safety and connectivity. As such, we must ensure that our communities always have access to the best available communications tools.

So, where do we start? The answer, infrastructure.

Upgrading our wireless infrastructure – specifically deploying a robust network of densification devices know as small cells – is key to ensuring present and future connectivity. Right now, our devices are mostly connected by large towers or macro antennas spread miles apart.

Small cells, on the other hand, are small antennas or nodes, affixed to existing infrastructure in close proximity to one another. The lack of distance between nodes is one of the factors that allows for the increased wireless coverage and capacity.

A robust small cell network makes for a more resilient and reliable network, which will ultimately allow for 911 operators to get a better read on where a person is located and ensure that mobile alerts are pushed out in an effective and timely manner.

Further, building out a permanent network of small cells across the country will not only help ensure our safety today, but will also serve as the backbone for future 5G networks that will redefine what we think of as being “connected”.

There’s no question that we must find better ways to utilize mobile technology to ensure people can find safety during an emergency, whether that means calling 911 or evacuating before a natural disaster. The devices we all carry in our pockets have the potential to save our lives, and it would be irresponsible of us to not take full advantage of the technology right at our fingertips.

To Stay Globally Competitive, The U.S. Needs To Embrace 5G

By Kish Rajan

Walk down the street in any American city and it’s easy to see that we are already deep into the wireless age. Ninety-five percent of Americans now own a cellphone, and we are using our devices not only to communicate but to watch videos, order cars, handle banking and much more.

But we are only beginning to understand what will become of our insatiable appetite for next-generation connectivity. In the past two years alone, data traffic has increased 238%. With the advent of the internet of things (IoT) – which will connect cars, household appliances and even pets – that data usage is going to grow exponentially.

In order to handle this traffic, America must get ahead of the curve by upgrading our network to 5G. The state-of-the-art 5G wireless network promises to handle 100 times more capacity and move data 10 times faster than the current 4G LTE network most prevalent in the U.S.

However, according to a recent study, America is lagging behind both China and South Korea when it comes to 5G deployment – which is a potential big problem for our country.

Why? Well, there’s more at stake here than just lightning-fast video downloads. 5G will create enormous economic growth. Accenture estimates that 5G could lead to $275 billion in investments, 3 million new jobs and $500 billion in GDP growth. Faster wireless networks will position us to see incredible innovation in smart-cities technology, healthcare and education.

To date, the U.S. has been the global leader in innovation – in large part due to our leadership in the wireless space – but there’s a real risk America will lose our position to China and South Korea if we lose the race to 5G.

The economic benefit of leading the move to the next level of network speed and capacity is not fiction. History shows that 5G will provide tremendous economic benefit. America led the way on 4G technology, resulting in $100 billion in economic impact. We took that lead position from the European Union, which had been ahead of the game on 2G. Losing that front-runner status led to job losses and contractions in the telecom hardware and software industries in Europe.

We can’t afford to have the same thing happen in the U.S.

Bringing 5G technology, and all of its benefits, to market requires the deployment of new infrastructure, namely a new network of small wireless nodes called “small cells.” Small cells are about the size of a pizza-box and are most commonly attached to existing infrastructure, such as utility poles and streetlights. In order to lay the foundation for 5G, we will need small cells deployed in mass to optimize the strength and reach of the coverage.

To roll out these new networks, municipalities and states must be forward-thinking. We can’t just default to the regulations established in the past that slow the deployment of small cells. We must rethink regulations to allow for 5G networks to spring up all over the country so every community can benefit.

If not, there’s a real risk we will not only fall behind China and South Korea, but that within the U.S., we will be creating a new type of digital divide.

Cities such as Sacramento and Long Beach in California are aggressively moving forward with 5G. Officials in Long Beach hope that the new network will help bridge the city’s digital divide and attract new businesses. These emerging cities may find themselves attracting the Googles and Amazons of tomorrow as larger cities drag their feet on 5G.

While that might be good for some, it would be better for entrepreneurs everywhere to have access to the 5G network. If we don’t put ourselves in a position to lead on 5G, we could feel the effects in the not-too-distant future.

Sacramento Leads The 5G Way

Mobile Phone Tower

This story originally appeared in Fox & Hounds.

By Kish Rajan

Later this year, the country’s first 5G-capable city will come online. 5G will enable residents to download a full movie in under 10 seconds, enable gamers to play multiplayer video games from their smartphones with zero lag, and connect millions of home appliances – 5G will even connect our pets.

There is little doubt that 5G will change what we think of as being truly “connected,” but who will get it first? If you guessed the usual suspects – Silicon Valley, San Francisco – you would be wrong.

Verizon has named Sacramento the first of 3 to 5 cities where it plans to launch 5G service later this year. And while Sacramento doesn’t leap to mind as an innovative metropolis, the city has positioned itself to be amongst the first to roll out a future-defining 5G network.

Over the past two years alone, we have seen data traffic increase a whopping 238%. There are currently 262 million smartphones in use across the US, in addition to another 180 million connected devices (i.e. fitness trackers). According to projections, our insatiable appetite for wireless is just getting started.

This reality is why the move to 5G must happen quickly. 5G networks can handle 100 times more capacity and move data 10 times faster than the current 4G network. 5G’s speed and capacity is what will enable the network to keep up with current demand, while also powering new innovations such as autonomous vehicles and smart energy grids.

Further, this technology has the potential to supercharge California’s economy. A report released by Accenture last year estimated that 5G will result in $275 billion in investments, create three million new jobs, and grow GDP by over $500 billion nationwide.

Sacramento is leading the way by adopting common sense policy and embracing next generation infrastructure deployment. 5G depends on the robust deployment of “small cells.” Small cells are small, low-powered antennas – sometimes called nodes – usually about the size of a pizza box, attached to existing infrastructure such as utility poles or streetlights.

While 5G is fast, its higher frequencies don’t travel as well, which means network density is an absolute necessity. For example, the Golden 1 Center will require dozens of small cells.

It’s time for others in the state to learn from Sacramento and embrace the future – starting with small cells.

Unblocking 5G: New FCC Rules Make it Easier to Build Fast Networks

By Kish Rajan

Source: IBT

The Federal Communications Commission last week voted to kick-start 5G wireless networks in the United States by exempting them from some reviews that hinder installation.

It’s about time.

So far, the U.S. lags far behind the world leader — China — at getting 5G networks up and running. “There is a worldwide race to lead in 5G, and other nations are poised to win,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel acknowledged in January. It’s an embarrassing place for the country that invented the internet. But more than that, our hesitancy to streamline the process for installing vital infrastructure is costing us money, jobs and security.

Today, we’re coasting along on 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks. Experts warned as far back as 2011 that 4G would be maxed out within four years because data demand was growing too fast to be accommodated by 4G bandwidth. And it’s not slowing. In the U.S., data usage will be seven times greater in 2021 than it was in 2016. By 2020, more than 50 billion devices and 212 billion sensors will be connected to wireless networks. All this data is making 4G networks crowded, slow and spotty.

The annoying buffering while streaming video, the random dead zones and the snail-like pace of sending photos over text can be attributed to our inefficient and overwhelmed 4G networks. The more people using it, the slower it goes, which is why it’s often difficult to do anything on your phone in Los Angeles unless you’re on Wi-Fi.

5G networks are much more efficient at using spectrum. They’ll increase capacity 100 times or more over 4G and be able to move data at least 10 times faster, allowing for all sorts of real-time applications. And that’s just the beginning. 5G is vital to improved safety, reliability and economic development.

According to a 2017 Accenture report, smart cities and Internet of Things (IoT) improvements led by 5G capabilities have the potential to create $160 billion in benefits and savings. Then there’s the economic boost of building 5G networks. Accenture predicts that 5G could result in $275 billion in investments, create 3 million new jobs nationally and grow GDP by $500 billion.

Small cells can be easier and cheaper to install than traditional cell towers, but they rely on density to provide fast, reliable data service. A college football stadium, for example, needs 40 to 60 cells to provide full coverage. Unfortunately, building a 5G network isn’t as easy as it should be because there’s no federal standard. That means each state and municipality has its own series of complicated, confusing and contradictory rules covering installation.

Industry is prepared to deploy hundreds of thousands of small cells on utility poles throughout the country. But it can take as long as a year, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, to navigate through cumbersome local and state regulations designed to govern 200-foot cell towers. These unobtrusive small cell solutions simply should not be compared to traditional cell towers.

The FCC ruling is a good start, as it will eliminate some of the repetitive and unnecessary review processes. In fact, Accenture estimates it will save $1.6 billion. But states need to get on board, too. It’s in their own best interests and those of their constituents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of American households now are cellphone only, which means they rely entirely on wireless networks for service. That explains why 80 percent of 911 calls are mobile. 5G networks will be a boon to first responders — and the people seeking help.

In California, despite being the national epicenter of innovation, we’re lagging behind. Last year a bill that would have helped the 5G industry was stopped due to concerns from local municipalities about installation of the cells. While local governments’ concerns most certainly need to be addressed, we can’t allow the 5G conversion to become mired in red tape.

It’s time for California to embrace 5G technology. As the world’s sixth-largest economy, California cannot simply keep pace with the rest of the country; it must instead set the national and global example. Let’s get to work.

Kish Rajan is chief evangelist for CALinnovates.

CALinnovates Statement on 5G Access

A statement from CALinnovates Executive Director Mike Montgomery:

“In today’s booming digital economy, fast and reliable internet connectivity is an absolute necessity, as nearly every industry job depends on it. Keeping up with the global sprint to 5G will mean the difference between U.S. innovation surging or falling behind. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr’s common-sense approach to removing regulatory roadblocks will promote 5G access for every American. It’s about time.”

Time for California to build a 5G network

By Kish Rajan

Here in California, we like to think of ourselves as being on the cutting-edge of all things technology. After all, California is home to Silicon Valley and we are the birthplace of companies like Google, Apple and Tesla.

But in one crucial area, we are at a high risk of falling behind. States like Virginia, Florida and Texas could all have state-wide 5G networks before California does.

And that’s a problem because 5G has the potential to unlock enormous economic growth, help grow new businesses and jobs, improve transportation, save energy, and greatly improve our infrastructure.

Right now, most mobile devices work on a 4G network where signals are bounced off of large cell phone towers than can a mile or more apart. This works fine. But as anyone who’s ever lost coverage or waited with growing frustration for a video to download knows, we need to upgrade these systems to keep pace with the growing demand.

4G has the potential to hit maximum speeds of 1 Gbps, but because of interference from buildings, it rarely hits those speeds. A 5G network has the potential to move data 10 times faster. Yes, that’s going to be good for consumers who want to enjoy quick downloads, but it’s so much more than that. 5G will power the infrastructure necessary to make our cities smarter.

According to a report from Accenture, new 5G-based technologies will enable intelligent transportation and energy systems – easing traffic gridlock and improving the performance of the electrical grid. These improvements alone have the potential to create $160 billion in benefits and savings. We’re already seeing the possibilities for this kind of technology in San Diego with sensors in street lights collecting data that will track air quality and improve traffic flow and parking helping the city save $2.5 million per year. Imagine that kind of innovation on a state-wide scale.

Then there’s the economic benefits of building out the network itself. Accenture predicts that 5G could result in $275 billion in investments, creating 3 million new jobs nationally and growing GDP by $500 billion.

But we’re not going to see any of that potential come to fruition if we constrain the emergence of 5G by subjecting it to the old approach to 4G regulations.

Right now, it can take up to two years to approve a permit for a cell-phone tower. But a 5G network requires 10 to 100 times more small cell antennas than a 4G network. And then different municipalities have different requirements for cell-phone antenna permits.

These old regulations make it almost impossible to build out a vibrant 5G network that could benefit everyone in our state.

That’s why states like Virginia have put new rules in place to make it easier and faster to build a 5G network. Governor Terry McAuliffe just signed a bill that creates a state-wide permit to place cell antennas on lamp posts and utility poles. Florida, Texas, Minnesota, Arizona, Colorado, Indiana and Iowa are all looking at similar bills.

It’s time for California to catch up.

We have our own 5G bill making its way through the state Legislature. SB 649 will lay the ground work for a 5G network. It’s crucial that it moves quickly through the legislative process and that Gov. Jerry Brown signs it in to law. The longer we wait, the further we fall behind.

California has never taken a back seat to any other state when it comes to innovation. We must not start now. Let’s unleash our full potential and remind the country and the world what we’re made of.

Kish Rajan is chief evangelist at CALinnovates and former director of Gov. Jerry Brown’s GOBiz initiative. He can be contacted at kish@CALinnovates.org.

This piece was originally published in the Monterey Herald.

Why Elon Musk Chose South Australia For His New Battery Project

By Mike Montgomery

When Elon Musk announced that he plans to build the world’s biggest ion battery to power to South Australia, it was a sign that the state truly has made a stunning turnaround.

Things looked grim for South Australia back in 2013, when GM announced it would stop manufacturing cars in Australia as of fall 2017.

Adelaide, the biggest city in South Australia, had prospered after World War II as a manufacturing hub for automobiles, appliances and textiles. Local industry was protected by high tariff walls — as high as 54 percent for automobiles in the 1980s. In Adelaide, the largest employers were tied to the auto industry.

That shattering 2013 announcement was a wake-up call, according to Jay Weatherill, South Australia’s premier. “It was a signal moment for us,” he says. “It’s been the impetus for massive change.”

Weatherill decided to pin the state’s future on tech and innovation rather than go looking for a volume-based manufacturing industry to replace GM. In fact, he started looking to make South Australia the next Silicon Valley.

As more cities look to reinvent themselves in the wake of factories closing, Adelaide is an appealing model. The first step was a review of commercialization and venture capital investments in South Australia. The news wasn’t good. The state received less than 0.2% of the venture capital investment in Australia. The review also found that a lack of coordination between government departments and agencies hindered private investment opportunities.

The solution was to spend money to make money. Weatherill used state funds last year to establish a $38 million venture capital fund to promote innovation, attract new VC and encourage tech companies to move to South Australia. The state also committed money to support new businesses from conception to product development and early commercialization, and gave more money to the local university’s innovation incubator to underwrite initiatives in the advanced manufacturing and engineering spaces.

South Australia also has invested in promoting its agribusiness sector and developing private export markets in high-quality foods, particularly to serve the exploding middle class in Asia. “Our wine and food are attracting huge investment from overseas,” says Andrew Cullen, managing partner of Deloitte in South Australia.

Weatherill also hired American transplant Tom Hajdu as his “Chief Advisor on Innovation.” Hajdu — founder of both music production company tomandandy and Disrupter, a Los Angeles-based startup incubator — says the state needed to upgrade its infrastructure to attract new tech businesses and the jobs that come with them. He led the effort to make Adelaide the first international city to join the Smart Gigabit Communities Program, which in part requires members to install sensors throughout the city and develop applications to connect those sensors and the data they collect to the cloud. So-called “gig cities” also have high-speed internet that is up to 100 times faster than the national average. The SA government paid $3.5 million for the upgrades.

But the biggest sign that the economy has turned the corner came in May, when all of South Australia’s efforts to modernize paid off. The Australian government picked the state as the primary location for its new defense shipbuilding program. Australia committed $66 billion to build submarines, frigates and offshore patrol vessels for the Australian navy, and to upgrade and modernize Adelaide’s existing naval shipyard. The government also will open a school in Adelaide to train shipbuilding workers.

Building and maintaining the next-generation naval fleet is expected to bring in 5,000 high-skilled, high-tech jobs, as well as thousands of other jobs in associated industries. South Australia won the bid in part by focusing on how it has morphed from rust belt to 21st century city.

“South Australia is a next generation state,” says Hajdu. “It’s the center of the new digital economy.”  If Elon Musk agrees, you know it must be true.

Mike Montgomery is the Executive Director at CALinnovates.

This piece was originally published on Forbes.

 

Solving Infrastructure Problems From the Bottom Up

By Kish Rajan

Walking down the streets of San Diego, it’s not immediately apparent that the city is at the center of a technological revolution in infrastructure. That’s because the technology, 3,200 sensors, is hidden inside the city’s new street lights. The sensors collect data that will help the city save $2.5 million on electricity each year, track air quality, and improve traffic flow and parking. They can even be of use to public-safety first responders.

San Diego’s smart lights are just part of the city’s push to rebuild its infrastructure. Last June, voters approved the Rebuild San Diego ballot initiative, which will provide up to $4 billion for infrastructure projects over the next 25 years.

Expect to see more local and state governments taking infrastructure problems into their own hands. Given the realities of politics in Washington, they know the folly of waiting for the federal government to step in and save the day. And it’s highly unlikely that any new infrastructure plan that did emerge from Washington would cover more than a fraction of the $4.6 trillion that the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates it would cost to fix everything — more than the federal government spends in a year.

ASCE’s latest report card gives America’s infrastructure an overall grade of D-plus. And no one knows better than those at the local level how our deteriorating infrastructure makes us less competitive globally, not to mention the safety concerns it raises for the people who use crumbling bridges, overpasses and tunnels every day or who drink water that might be contaminated by sewage overflows, just to name a few issues. They need to take a page from San Diego’s playbook and find creative ways to start solving infrastructure problems from the bottom up.

It’s already beginning to happen. South Bend, Ind., for example, is a sewer overflow city. Hundreds of billions of gallons of raw sewage overflow into local rivers and lakes every year. Aiming to improve the situation, the city, under Mayor Pete Buttigieg, has begun using a system called CSOnet, developed by a local company, that collects data from sensors inside the sewers so the city can redirect water to empty pipes and reduce the overflows.

In Multnomah County, Ore., more than a third of the commercial buildings use more energy than they should. But the Building Ready Multnomah initiative, started by former County Commissioner Jules Bailey, helps finance capital improvements that reduce energy consumption or generate energy. The organization leverages public and private resources for the loans and encourages participants to use the savings generated from becoming more energy efficient toward seismic upgrades to prepare for natural disasters.

And as some Western states struggle to build up their renewable-energy infrastructure, other states, including California, have excess renewable energy capacity. California state Sen. Bob Hertzberg has proposed the creation of a regional grid operator and energy exchange to make it easier for states to buy and sell energy to each other, which could reducing overall carbon dioxide emissions.

These efforts might seem small, but they can add up to a serious impact. With the continuing dysfunction in Washington, it may be years before we see a comprehensive federal infrastructure effort. But as these local leaders have shown, that doesn’t mean we can’t begin to improve our grade.

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