A couple of weeks ago I had penned a dialog about why other countries are, supposedly, leading the 5G “race.” I had noted that the countries that are further along in 5G technologies are the ones with the least democratic structures, i.e. china and Korea. It seems the more democratic a country is the longer and harder it gets to, effectively and efficiently, deploy 5G (United States and Europe).
The advantage here is that less democratic countries have a much better homogeneity between the public and private sector due to the fact that they have a much heavier-handed national government. There is not the myriad government levels and anonymity that stratifies all of these levels, as is the case in the United States. That gives them a leg-up in the technology race, all other things being equal.
There is not enough time to fix this here. The 5G cat is out of the bag and the expectations set by the industry, here, make it its own worst enemy.
A similar situation existed with Net Neutrality (NN). Before NN was “repealed” (although repeal technically is not the right term due to its complexity), more than 20 state Attorneys General had filed lawsuits to stop the repeal. That is history now, however, in a reverse move, the state of California implemented its own version of NN and the Fed’s Department of Justice is, now, suing them. While this is not directly related to this missive, it is useful, as an example, because it seems that a similar scenario is brewing in 5G.
We also know that the FCC has become vocal about removing stumbling blocks that are impeding the advancement of 5G deployments. In September, the FCC approved an order attempting to “streamline” States procedures for deployment of some wireless infrastructure components, including small cells. That same order includes language that “overrides” certain stage and local regulations.
This was as much to keep the hype of being the first in 5G alive, as it was to do what is necessary to clear away some of the debris that impedes 5G progress.
However, as I alluded to at the beginning, one of my key points was that in many other countries, particularly the Pacific rim, the government is an integrated partner, even the primary driver, in enabling technology advancements, wireless and otherwise. That is not the case in the United States.
Here is a shining example of that point. Seattle city officials have decided to thumb their noses at the FCC by refusing to accept the FCC preemption. If you read the statement from Seattle’s Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes, they note that the FCC’s order was an “overreach by the Trump administration.” They state that the FCC’s direction is all wrong. That, “Instead of expediting the deployment of high-speed internet of addressing digital inequity, the FCC’s actions impede local authority and will require cities to subsidize the wireless industry’s deployment for private gain, giving away public property without asking for anything in return.”
Interesting. Whether that is true or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is why Seattle is so miffed. It is an indicator or a larger issue.
So we are all on the same page, here are a few reads from the FCC order.
However, whether this type of federal regulation is acceptable or not varys among local municipalities. Some applaud the FCC order; others, like Seattle, not so much. But it does showcase the issues that surround trying to get everybody in lock-step.
Fundamentally, the FCC has the right idea. There has been a lot of pressure on them to streamline the rules process and level the playing field for deployments.
However, what this boils down to is the argument of States vs. Federal government rights. Samir Saini, New York City’s chief information officer and commissioner with the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, had a point when he wrote that local control has always been the backbone of wireless deployments, He supports his position by saying that the FCC is pursuing “an illegal overstep of their authority. Congress has clearly assured cities control of local rights-of-way for wireless equipment. The courts have upheld this, and if the FCC proceeds otherwise, all Americans stand to gain are lawsuits and confusion, not enhanced wireless service https://firstname.lastname@example.org/the-fcc-wants-our-public-property-were-saying-no-a029cc544c28.”
Another opinion comes from the CEO of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Tom Cochran. He notes that “The FCC action misapplies federal law to federalize local public property as part of its efforts to bestow upon a class of private companies’ special rights to access local rights-of-way and public property.”
However, there is the other side. Local governments are a hodgepodge of, virtually, an infinite mix of rules, regulations, policies and procedures. While eventually, the infrastructure will be deployed, slogging through a nation of this is akin to wading around in knee-deep mud! Progress here takes a long time.
This comes back around to the general 5G race mentality. There is not going to be a “winner” or “loser” ever. 5G is not a tangible object that is quantifiable in terms of winning or losing. There are so many facets to it that there will be many leaders across that landscape. Some will be first here; others will be first there. As I have said many times, there will never be a moment we can define as the point where the 5G race is “won.”
Global deployment needs to be made in a cooperative environment. Leveling the playing field here is the United States is a good plan. The FCC is on the right track. It would behoove the states not to fight it, rather to find ways to embrace it. In the same breath, the FCC should impose not heavy-hand regulations on the states. Rather, lay out a plan that can get everybody on board with a minimum of caterwauling. That will be the way the United States keeps up with the leaders, whomever they may be.