Lawmakers eager for 5G breakthrough

Lawmakers at an event Wednesday touted the potential benefits from emerging 5G technology but warned that Congress must act quickly in a bipartisan fashion before the U.S. falls behind.

“We’ve got to remember to keep 5G nonpartisan, because the moment it becomes owned by a single party, then that’s when it loses,” Rep. John Curtis (R-Utah), a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, said at the event, titled “Boundless: Building a 5G World,” at the Newseum. The event was hosted by The Hill and sponsored by Qualcomm.

{mosads}“There’s no doubt in my mind that we can work together to get a bill like this through,” Curtis added about legislation to facilitate the buildout of 5G infrastructure.

Curtis and fellow Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, both spoke to The Hill editor-in-chief Bob Cusack about the importance of Congress passing the Airwaves Act. The bill would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to grant new broadcast licenses for specified spectrum bands, freeing up the airwaves for the new 5G wireless broadband standard. The bill was introduced in the Senate in 2017 by Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.).

Clarke said she expected the new Congress would be able to make headway on 5G.

“I am hopeful. I am optimistic,” said Clarke. “The goal is to open everyone’s eyes to the fact that we can no longer delay.”

The New York lawmaker also expressed hope that bipartisanship around issues like technology could spur both parties to work together on other issues as well.

“We hope that, maybe not in substance but in truth, there will be some unity because it’s important, particularly when we talk about 5G and all the work that needs to be done,” said Clarke.

She also emphasized the role that competition plays in the advancement of 5G in the U.S., as other countries such as China are also racing to deploy these technologies.

“It will put us at a disadvantage if we are late to the game,” said Clarke. “Our companies are already sort of leaders in this space, and if we allow other companies around the world to hit that sweet spot around 5G before we do, imagine what it would mean in terms of the shrinking of our access to the market.”

“It is important that we facilitate this and that we do it expeditiously,” Clarke cautioned.

Clarke said the rollout of 5G would have a widespread impact on the lives of consumers.

“I don’t think there’s a space in our lives where 5G will not factor,” said Clarke. “So that’s why it’s very important that as we are engaged in this race.”

Technologists and industry boosters have said 5G will bring lightning-fast internet speeds and improve connectivity in the nation’s cities.

While optimistic about the benefits of 5G, Curtis also acknowledged that any emerging technology also poses new challenges, in particular security concerns.

“I think if anything can stop this, it won’t be bandwidth, it won’t be deployment, it will be the privacy issues involved in this,” said Curtis. “Unless we get our arms around that, I think that’s ultimately the biggest threat not only to 5G but to all of this technology.”

Curtis also shared his anticipation for the 5G innovations ahead.

“What really excites me is what we don’t yet know about what to do with this,” said Curtis.

“I am here to tell you there are things that are so exciting that we haven’t even thought of yet.”

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