Jumpstarting America's infrastructure
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The incoming administration has signaled its steadfast commitment to two big ideas: infrastructure investment and eliminating regulatory barriers to economic growth. America’s wireless broadband industry provides a unique low-cost opportunity for the new administration to win big on both ideas quickly, with real results in jobs and economic growth. 

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First, President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE’s bold infrastructure plan “strengthens our economic platform, makes America more competitive, creates millions of jobs, increases wages for American workers, and reduces the costs of goods and services for American consumers.” It also reflects a bipartisan consensus on the importance of infrastructure to overall economic growth and job creation.

 

Unlike other infrastructure challenges our nation faces that may seek direct government investment, the American wireless industry stands ready to lead and invest billions of dollars in critically needed networks. Mobilitie, the nation’s largest privately owned wireless infrastructure provider, is one of the leaders in this effort. Together, wireless carriers and infrastructure companies are ready to expand and improve those networks coast to coast. Wireless carriers already invested nearly $32 billion in 2015, a significant portion of which was for 10,000 new cell sites. Many localities understand the job-creating, economy-boosting benefits that broadband investment will bring.  

Second, the president-elect has promised to “end the radical regulations that force jobs out of our communities and inner cities and “stop punishing Americans for working and doing business in the United States.” Unfortunately, some localities have done just, that by demanding exorbitant fees that will cost millions of dollars, imposing unjustified onerous regulations, enacting moratoria that stop all investment in its tracks, or erecting other roadblocks that frustrate deployment.

The Federal Communications Commission can convert both of these big ideas into immediate action with a single step: prohibit these unfair fees and regulations, which will unleash a torrent of new investment in wireless broadband networks. The FCC has an explicit statutory basis to do so, because Congress has prohibited states and localities from erecting obstacles that deter new telecom services. The FCC can also act early in 2017 and trigger this new round of private investment and job creation.

The new administration’s investment and barrier-clearing vision has allies at the FCC. Commissioner Ajit Pai has called on the FCC to “aggressively use its statutory authority to ensure that local governments don’t stand in the way of broadband deployment.” And Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has said, “I continue to hear legitimate complaints about localities placing hurdles in front of small cell deployments. Issues range from permitting problems and excessive fees to forced tolling agreements and de facto moratoria. Site approvals in rights-of-way, which are especially important for small cell systems, appear to be particularly problematic.” 

Immediate FCC action will have another important benefit: It will give all Americans better access to high-quality wireless networks. 

Americans rely on wireless access to the Internet to find and apply for jobs, obtain education and training, seek healthcare coverage, purchase goods and services, and for virtually all aspects of their lives. U.S. mobile data usage has been doubling nearly every year, and next-generation 5G technologies will generate vastly more wireless traffic, connecting literally billions of devices in homes, in vehicles and in our “smart” cities.

Much new network capacity needs to be deployed along local streets — the rights of way that have long housed networks to support other services such as telephone, electricity and cable. Because today’s networks require millions of closely spaced small antennas, or “small cells,” meeting consumer and business demand for wireless without greater access to rights of way is unachievable. Small cells need to be connected to core networks before they can serve customers, and the fiber needed for these connections also must be located in rights of way. The regulatory approval process for these small facilities should be faster and less expensive than the process for large cell towers, but it is often slower and more costly.

The skyrocketing use of wireless devices is putting tremendous strain on the wireless networks that have to carry all of this traffic, which can only be relieved by major investments in new infrastructure: the antennas, wires, other equipment and fiber needed to transmit mobile broadband traffic. Infrastructure investment in a 5G world, with far more infrastructure, more intensively deployed, in even more places, will far eclipse today’s levels.

By taking immediate, forceful action to prohibit infrastructure-killing fees and regulations, the new administration will unleash billions of dollars of job-creating investment to build wireless networks that will make the U.S. the global leader in 5G networks, jobs and capabilities.

 

Gary Jabara is the founder and CEO of Mobilitie, the largest privately held wireless telecommunications infrastructure and services firm in the United States.


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