How to make America great? Invest in our smartphone networks.
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The cell phone was invented here. The app industry was created here. Today’s 4G networks started here. No industry is more quintessentially American today—or more central to our daily lives—than mobile and your smartphone.

As a nation, we are rightfully focused on the conditions of our 20th century infrastructure system of tunnels, bridges, and roads that made America great. To rebuild our country with American hands and American labor, we must also invest in tomorrow’s platform for jobs and innovation: wireless.

The president’s charge to “harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow” means wireless. The Progressive Policy Institute found that the top two companies investing in America today are wireless providers. That’s no surprise.

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Wireless providers have invested over $300 billion in just the past ten years to build state-of-the-art networks that support America’s growing demand for everything wireless. What’s more, studies have found that wireless is a powerful jobs multiplier. A single job in wireless creates 6.5 additional jobs in our economy.

 

While last century’s infrastructure may require trillions in public money to rebuild, wireless offers a path to new jobs and new investment that doesn’t require a dime of federal funding. That’s more important now than ever before. The wireless industry is ready to spend hundreds of billions of our own money to build a better America, to create millions of new American jobs to benefit American workers and American families, and to increase the productivity of every industry and every community in America.

The wireless industry recently committed to spend more than $18 billion more to acquire more spectrum at auction. Billions of that will go to the U.S. Treasury, and in all, wireless has paid more than $100 billion in spectrum auctions, with much of those proceeds going directly to reducing our national debt and paying for other national priorities.

Going forward, our investment will be in 5G, the next generation of wireless. Accenture projects $275 billion in private capital will be invested in tomorrow’s 5G networks over the next decade, creating 3 million new jobs which is almost one job for every 100 Americans, and adding $500 billion to the economy. From that new platform, millions more jobs will be created and hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of new economic benefits will flow to American families and businesses. One study estimates the impact to be $2.7 trillion by 2030.

These networks will be 10 times faster than today’s networks, support 100 times more devices, beacons, and wearables, and unlock real-time applications like remote health care with networks five times more responsive. These networks will make our communities stronger and our lives safer. Increased connectivity will mean officials can spot and respond to crime or natural disasters as they happen. Faster connections will make our roads safer. Smarter energy solutions will lower utility costs for businesses and families.

For the United States to continue leading the world in wireless, we need three simple things. First, we need additional spectrum from the federal government to keep up with Americans’ runaway demand for mobile services. Our national mobile usage will be six times higher by 2020, and that’s before 5G applications fully revolutionize our lives.

Second, we need every level of government to optimize zoning and siting rules to promote next-generation wireless cells that will be the size of pizza boxes, rather than the 200-foot towers of today. Streamlining and simplifying siting with cost-based fees will jumpstart investment in communities across the country.

Finally, we need Congress to set a permanent structure for how we as a nation preserve an open internet and protect consumer privacy.  We need a framework that safeguards American families in a manner that also facilities innovation and investment in the next great American app and mobile service.

If we can come together on these three steps, I’m confident the wireless industry will invest in the jobs and networks necessary to lead the world in 5G and that it will make America stronger and safer.

Meredith Attwell Baker is president and chief executive officer of CTIA, the wireless industry’s trade association. She served a two-year term as a member of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission under President Obama and previously served as deputy assistant secretary of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration within the Department of Commerce under President George W. Bush.


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