Broadband

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.

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.

California’s Policy Makers Need to Keep the Broadband Boom Alive

By Kish Rajan

California’s communications industry has witnessed a period of astonishing growth over the last 10 years, with the promise of an even brighter future to come. You might even call it a broadband boom. So it’s crucial that state policy makers keep that growth a top priority as they begin their new legislative session. They should resist any calls to stifle competition or innovation. California desperately needs this focus for the state to continue to be the world’s technology leader.

California legislators are already signaling that they understand the importance of the networks that power modern communication devices and technologies. For example, lawmakers recently reshaped California’s Utilities and Commerce Committee, which oversees utilities in the state. Instead of lumping the Internet into the same committee that oversees utilities like the electric company, it moved it into the newly created Communications and Conveyance Committee. This change sent a clear message to Californians: policy makers understand the internet isn’t a staid, static utility, and it shouldn’t be regulated like one.

When California’s legislators work with the communications community, the state’s consumers win big. A recent study by CALinnovates bears this out. Economist David Sosa found that from 2008 to 2015, wireline broadband speeds have increased 700 percent, while broadband prices have declined as much as 76 percent. During the same time period, broadband VoIP connections increased by 220 percent, or 4.9 million users, while California’s total wireless subscriptions jumped by 9.5 million, or 29 percent. At the same time California has experienced tremendous growth in IP and Wireless technologies, legacy voice connections declined by 4.3 million, or 36 percent. These are just a few of the signs that Californians’ demand for broadband, mobile and voice over IP is growing rapidly.

Even better, broadband speeds are getting faster while costing consumers less. Sosa found that broadband speeds have increased by nearly 700 percent since 2008. Even so, from 2008 through 2015 residential, wireline broadband prices fell by as much as 70 percent. Clearly California is on the right track when it comes to bringing broadband and mobile technology to its citizens at a reasonable price.

Is there still work to be done? Of course. As I’ve noted before, California needs to continue working to ensure technology benefits all Californians. Over the last decade, private investment has advanced broadband and wireless coverage across the state, including in many rural communities. Government programs, such as the Connect America Fund, can also help make considerable progress in increasing broadband access. The California Advanced Services Fund can play an important role as well, in helping to fund broadband deployment to unserved and underserved areas of the state. Looking forward, developing smart policies to promote the deployment of advanced wireless technologies such as 5G and small cell, will also help accelerate the delivery of next-generation technologies that consumers demand.

These solutions will come, but only if California lawmakers stay the course. The state’s forward-thinking policies have created broadband and mobile markets that are functioning extremely well, and will continue to deliver innovative new products and services going forward, as well as faster connectivity. Let’s keep California moving forward and encourage our state’s legislators to keep this broadband boom going.

Let’s Stop Treating The Internet Like A Utility

By Kish Rajan

What do the iPhone, the “Internet of Things” and solar panels all have in common? They’re all fantastic technologies that make our lives better, and none of them were invented by utility companies.

They could have been. People consider phone companies to be utilities. Same with electric companies. But thanks to decades of heavy regulations, these sectors have had little to no incentive to innovate due to outdated laws and regulations that stifle rather than encourage investment and competition.

Those disrupters have been able to move quickly and build innovative new companies, thanks to the internet, which has arguably been the single largest engine for growth in this country since the auto industry.

It’s safe to say that the internet does not behave like a utility, but too often, it is treated as one. Until a few weeks ago, the same committee in the California Assembly that dealt with utilities also handled internet issues. The Utilities and Commerce Committee handled everything from ride-sharing issues to the transition to renewable energy. Last session it was overwhelmed by 140 bills.

Kudos to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon for spearheading a new alignment for that committee. It is now two different groups: the Communications and Conveyance Committee and the Utility and Energy Committee.

This new division more closely reflects the reality of the internet. It’s not a utility – it’s a technology.

It’s an important distinction.

The internet is often lumped in with utilities when it really shouldn’t be. Take the California Public Utilities Commission, for example. The PUC has oversight of California’s utilities – including the internet. Four years ago the Legislature concluded that the PUC was holding back the development of internet phone service. It moved oversight of that industry to the Legislature, and since then it has flourished.

Last year we were supportive of Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s efforts to disband the PUC (though his bill might have been a step too far). That bill ultimately failed, but it had the right idea. There are utilities and then there is technology, and the two shouldn’t be regulated in the same way.

That’s not to say that the Legislature should take a completely hands-off approach to the internet. We need regulations, but they need to be smart regulations that promote innovation, investment and competition.

Regulations should suit the demands of our technology-reliant world. They should promote broader access to fast internet, help close the shrinking digital divide and make sure our emergency systems are operating at the highest level of security and reliability.

The more we think about the internet as a utility, the more we’ll slow progress. And that’s not what anyone wants.

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. 

Originally published in the Sacramento Bee 

 

New Report Shows Californians Are More Connected Than Ever

California’s communications industry is currently in a period of astonishing growth, with the promise of an even brighter future to come. You might even call it a broadband boom. A recent study by Dr. David W. Sosa bears this out. Sosa is a principal at the Analysis Group, an economics consulting firm. His research shows that Californians are embracing the wireless lifestyle.

From 2008 through 2015, California’s total wireless subscriptions jumped by 9.5 million, or 29 percent. At the same time, broadband voice residential connections increased by 220 percent, or 4.9 million users. Meanwhile, legacy wireline users dropped by 36 percent. California’s embrace of broadband and wireless is helping keep the state at the center of the growing technology industry.

To read more about this topic, click here to read a recent op-ed by CALinnovates Chief Evangelist Kish Rajan.

Allow Municipalities the Chance to Build Broadband Networks

After all, who better to know what a community needs than a local government? If elected officials recognize a need for better broadband access in their state, shouldn’t voters have the final say as to who gets to build and maintain its broadband networks?

Every corner of the country deserves access to high-speed Internet.

Read more on The Huffington Post

 

A Tale of Three Cutting-Edge Cities

“The road to failure is often paved with good intentions,” famed writer Samuel Johnson might have said.

Just ask Riverside, California. Back in 2006, the city set out to build a municipal Wi-Fi network for its citizens. But a severe lack of interest from customers prompted the city’s original communications partner to pull away from the project.  The city scrambled to find resources to build and maintain the network, ultimately costing residents more than $700,000 per year for a network to live up to the hype.  the Wi-Fi network never even reached two-thirds of the population and has been described as obsolete.

In other words, the good intentions from Riverside officials have resulted in a costly, and failed, experiment on the taxpayer’s dime.

Read the full article on Tech Zulu

Connectivity Needed to Build Stronger Merced, Region

As featured in The Sacramento Bee
By: Mike Montgomery

Can Merced be the next Silicon Valley?

According to a recent study from the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of Americans now subscribe to broadband Internet service at home, and an additional 10 percent of Americans have broadband access at home via a smartphone.

While that’s the good news, there are still some communities in America that lack some kind of broadband or Internet access at home. About 7 percent of Americans say they lack Internet access altogether.

Read the full article here.

 

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