The FCC Wants Our Public Property. We’re Saying No.

By Samir Saini, New York City Chief Information Officer and Commissioner, Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications on Medium

[. . .]

Federal control of local streets isn’t going to bring more or better wireless service to Americans.

The industry and the FCC have argued that allowing wireless companies to put up equipment anywhere they please will encourage broadband deployment to underserved areas. Looking at recent history, there is no reason to believe that they actually will.

Driven by their profit motive, big wireless companies are going to go where the money is — to the rich commercial districts and dense residential areas in urban cores, upgrading the network already in place there and charging the highest rates they can get. They will not be racing to serve traditionally underserved areas at affordable rates — be they rural or urban — where the prospect of profit doesn’t look as good. This could result in the kind of “digital redlining” AT&T stands accused of doing in cities like Cleveland and Detroit.

We see this play out in NYC, where poles are priced as low as $12 per month in underserved areas yet there are very few providers looking to install in those communities. Our colleagues in rural areas tell us they haven’t been able to attract companies even when offering poles at NO cost.

[. . . ]

This is a reality check by a professional who deals with the big telcos on a daily basis. Follow the money! This money trail does not lead to rural communities.

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Rural America Worries It Will Miss Out On 5G

This analysis is in The Hill, and it is consistent with my views that 5G is not a good technology for rural applications. Under current plans, rural America is going to miss out on 5G and broadband connectivity.  The open question is how to prevent this digital divide from growing any wider.  

The Hill:

Lawmakers and consumer advocates are pressing telecommunication companies to ensure that rural areas are not left behind in the race to adopt fifth-generation, or 5G, mobile broadband technology.

Industry says the new wireless standard will dramatically boost internet speeds and bandwidth.

But rural advocates from both parties, such as Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), note that large areas of America still lack 4G or even 3G coverage.
“I am very concerned that [5G] will never come to Montana. We have advocated to put 5G into our biggest town, Billings, yet we have gotten no response whatsoever,” Tester said during an August oversight hearing of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) before the Senate Commerce Committee.

“As we work to get 5G — and I think all of us want to have 5G through the country — what happens to the places who have no G?” he asked the FCC commissioners testifying.

During a September hearing on 5G, Capito similarly pressed top telecom executives. She said that despite improvements in internet technology, those advances rarely made it to underserved rural areas.

“I do think this is a repeating theme and we’re still not getting there so I’m a bit frustrated by that,” Capito said.

While most urban areas have access to high-speed internet and 4G mobile broadband, outside of the highways that cut across the country, huge swaths of America often lack any consistent broadband connection.

Industry insists 5G broadband will help address the “digital divide” between highly connected urban areas and rural areas that have few and in some cases no options for affordable high-speed broadband. It sees wireless broadband as a means to provide connectivity to hard-to-reach rural areas.

“I do think that goals are intertwined of connecting all of America and winning the race to 5G,” said Meredith Attwell Baker, president of CTIA, a lobbying group that represents major telecom companies, at the Senate Commerce Committee. She said making more 5G spectrum available would be a big step to achieve that goal.

Lawmakers and telecom experts are largely supportive of the push to adopt 5G.

But many experts say the concerns raised about rural areas being left out are well-founded. They are skeptical that the new wireless standard will roll out easily to all corners of the country.

“I firmly believe that nothing is going to change,” said Dennis Thankachan, CEO and co-founder of Nexus Connectivity, a company that specializes in deploying broadband to rural areas.

He says 5G broadband requires very high frequencies, which don’t travel well over the long distances that are common in rural areas.

“It’s a hard physics problem that people haven’t figured out well yet,” Thankachan said.

“People that live in rural areas and that represent rural areas should be aware that the solution that wireless industry is pushing won’t help them,” agreed Gigi Sohn, a fellow at Georgetown Law who served as special counsel for former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

At least initially, much of 5G’s deployment will rely on “small cells” — a device that beams out broadband at relatively short ranges. Small cells are a departure from 4G and 3G mobile broadband, which relied on huge cell towers that would send out wireless signals much further.

In densely populated cities, this isn’t a problem. Small cells can be placed every several blocks as needed, letting anyone near them access 5G networks. In areas where small cells haven’t been installed yet, phones will simply connect to the area’s 4G network.

This gets much trickier in rural areas, where in many cases there is not even a 4G network to fall back on.

“In a rural area it means you’re putting up a tower every 300 to 400 feet, which isn’t realistic,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association, a group that lobbies on behalf of rural broadband providers.

“With some of these long rural driveways, it’s going to take two towers to just get a wireless connection up to the house,” she said.

One industry executive, Brad Gillen, executive vice president of CTIA, publicly acknowledged during a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing in January that 5G might not improve service in rural areas.

“We think they’re two separate and important problems,” he said, referring to the race to adopt 5G and the issue of rural connectivity. “But no, [5G] won’t solve the problem for underserved areas.”

Even skeptics acknowledge 5G will bring many improvements overall. Experts who spoke to The Hill all clarified that they support the technology in terms of what it could do for industry, even if it doesn’t offer immediate help for rural areas. But they hope industry and policymakers keep pressing for ways to address the issue.

Doug Brake, a policy analyst at The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a technology-focused think tank, said that while 5G isn’t a good option for rural America at the moment, that could change in the future.

Brake said fixed point-to-point wireless links could be a rural alternative to urban small cells that would transmit 5G across longer distances. But he cautioned that is a ways off.

Regardless of how it happens, lawmakers and experts agree that making sure rural America has better access to high-speed internet is essential in moving the country forward.

Many are just skeptical 5G will be the way to do it.

“This is actually what’s hurting America. This is how you end up with rural communities that are not connected, that are kept off the internet and out of the conversation,” Thankachan said.

“That’s not what we need right now.”

While whitespace technology does not provide the high bandwidth and low latency of  5G it does provide rural families and business something they do not have now, access to the internet at 10-20Mbits.   It will support email, browsing, online shopping and the ability to download movies.  Whitespace Internet and fixed wireless providers can meet more rural broadband needs than 5G which will never come to most rural neighborhoods.

Administration Prepping Federal Broadband Coordination Plan

— One Trump administration priority has been to better marshal federal government agencies on how to work together to deploy broadband, and Redl says to watch for action soon. More than 25 agencies participate in this broadband interagency working group . “We’ve gotten great responses from the federal agencies,” Redl said during an episode of C-SPAN’s The Communicators expected to air this weekend. “We’re now working to harmonize those and we’re looking forward to presenting something to the White House soon and hopefully there’ll be some announcements out of that.”

This is good news if the follow-through is effective.  Stay Tuned.

Today: White House Spotlights 5G

— The White House National Economic Council is bringing together government officials, carriers, chip makers and trade groups for a look at the future of next-generation 5G technology. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is expected to give remarks about his agency’s work to support 5G services, and both Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Mike O’Rielly are planning to attend. The lone Democratic commissioner, Jessica Rosenworcel, was not invited. The summit comes amid growing backlash from local officials over the agency’s approval of a plan to streamline the deployment of small cells across the country to support 5G — an order that will override local regulations.

— House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) expects to discuss the broadband provisions wrapped into Ray Baum’s Act, enacted into law this spring as part of omnibus funding legislation. He said the Trump administration is striking a better balance on 5G than earlier in the year, when a National Security Council staffer floated a proposal to nationalize 5G. “I think they’re rightfully concerned about cybersecurity and most importantly, we want the U.S. and U.S. companies in the lead globally,” Walden told John on Thursday. “So we’re not having to take somebody else’s technology — I’d rather have our companies in the lead, in the forefront, and I believe they are.”

— NEC Director Larry Kudlow will discuss 5G’s impact on the future of the economy, and will argue that the administration’s tax reform and deregulatory policies have helped lay the foundation for the technology, according to an NEC official.

— Other speakers include Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who will also deliver a keynote address, as well as NTIA Administrator David Redl and Deputy CTO Michael Kratsios. The event will include sessions on spectrum, rural broadband deployment, security and applications of 5G technology. About 150 people are expected to attend, including representatives from trade groups such as CTIA, the Consumer Technology Association, the Wireless Infrastructure Association, and companies including Intel and Charter.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

FCC Small Cell Ruling Local Impact?

Governor Brown vetoed SB 649 which would have cleared the path for 5G small cell installation. Counties, Cities, and Town administrators worried if SB 649 became law, it would cap how much they could charge the telcos for use of public infrastructure. Now it has become a Federal administrative dictate.

Of course, what is worth noting is the majority of local authorities are working effectively with the telcos and the federal government to remove administrative hurdles and smooth the road to deployment. These new rules, which limit the power and influence of the local governments, are only directed at the troublemakers who demonstrate short-sighted ambitions in laying out a troublesome path for the telcos.

This is from telecom.com news article HERE.

It raises a question. What is the Gold County Broadband Consortia doing to smooth 5G installation in its area of responsibility, including Sierra, Nevada, Placer and El Dorado County? Question asked, waiting for an answer.

Even larger question is what are all the 14 California Utilities Commission Broadband Consortia doing to smooth 5G implementation? It is going to an economic challenge for the telcos to bring 5G to rural communities. Short-sighted administrative or greedy obstacles in the path will reduce the probability that those communities will ever see 5G.

Links to rural broadband consortia are in the right-hand column, ask the 5G question of the administrator and local policymakers.  Are they helping or hindering 5G implementation?  You might be surprised by the answer.