March 8, 2016 — Do you remember Gordon Gekko, the character portrayed by Michael Douglas in the iconic 1987 movie “Wall Street”? If you do, you might also remember scenes in which Douglas’ character makes phone calls from his state-of-the-art Motorola cellphone, which had Americans wondering what it must be like to have one of their own. Although much has changed since 1987, including no longer having to be Gordon Gekko rich to own a mobile phone, some things have not. Americans still want the latest and greatest technology available at their fingertips, and as mobile devices have become smaller and their operating systems faster, we have fully integrated these devices and the technology they offer into our day-to-day lives.
Think about everything you’re able to do with a mobile device and the ease with which you’re able to do it. A seat on a flight to London can be booked from the seat of your car in traffic, and a pizza can be ordered and delivered by texting or tweeting an emoji from your mobile phone. The technology that exists today allows us to connect instantaneously with people from coast to coast, and through apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Periscope and others, citizen journalists can broadcast from around the world.
It’s pretty amazing to think of the technological advancements we’ve seen over the last decade, which begs the question, what new advancements will we see in the decade to come? Imagine a world in which light bulbs, wheelchairs, and even the roads and bridges we drive on potentially become Internet-connected. What if download speeds were no longer relevant, and the content you want and need could be instantly accessed from wherever you’re located? While we’re not there yet, I think we’re on the path to achieving it.
In order to get there, I believe we need to work toward deploying a fifth-generation or “5G” wireless broadband network throughout the country, and there’s a collective duty as policymakers and innovators to see that it’s done as effectively and efficiently as possible. 5G shouldn’t be viewed simply as the next incremental step in wireless broadband technology, but instead as an enormous leap toward a revolution in our wireless capability in America. These networks will not only bring the already connected world closer together, but they can help connect rural areas, like some places in South Dakota, where high costs and other difficulties have delayed the high-speed broadband needed for robust Internet access.
As chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, I’ve authored legislation, the Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless (Mobile Now) Act, which would help usher in the 5G era by facilitating the investment and technology required to get there. Mobile Now is bipartisan, supported by industry leaders, and if enacted, it would benefit consumers and businesses alike. We’re going to work hard in the coming weeks and months to see that this important legislation makes its way through Congress so America’s innovators can continue their work on our 5G future.
John Thune is a Republican senator from South Dakota.