The FCC’s Smart Action for the High-Tech Economy

When it comes to generating high-tech jobs, California is America’s leader. But look beyond the West Coast, and it’s clear how truly national our high-tech industry has become. In the South, Texas, Virginia, and North Carolina are also leaders in high-tech growth. High-tech communities are also taking root across the Midwest. Michigan added more than 10,000 technology jobs in 2017.

As a proud progressive and Filipina immigrant who started her own business in San Francisco, I believe government should do its best to level the playing field because I have experienced the challenges of building a business without the privileges many entrepreneurs enjoy. Nothing is guaranteed. Rapid change upends careful planning. Resources are scarce in an environment where minute advantages mean the difference between success and failure.

This fragile balance means sound and focused government policy is imperative, particularly for industries that depend on cutting-edge tech and high-speed internet access.

At their March open meeting, the Federal Communications Commission considered regulatory changes that represent this kind of sound and focused policy with its latest effort to promote better wireless broadband service.

The commission voted to enact the proposal crafted by Commissioner Brendan Carr, which accelerates deployment of “5G,” the next generation of wireless service. 5G promises internet access up to 100 times faster than current systems. Small businesses will gain new abilities to set up offices in areas that don’t yet have wired broadband. Mobile video conferencing will be as seamless as in-person conversations.

But this 5G service and, more importantly, the jobs and benefits 5G will enable depend on deployment of a nationwide series of transmitters called “small cells.” In contrast to the large, 300-foot “macro-cell” towers from past generations, these new transmitters are about the size of a case of wine. But the United States needs to deploy more than 800,000 of these small cells — a monumental undertaking.

The updated regulation is designed to speed 5G deployment by modernizing federal environmental, historical, and Tribal permitting rules originally put in place for the macro-cell towers deployed 10 or 20 years ago. These permit reviews are expensive and time-consuming — an unneeded drag to deploying today’s smaller cells, including to underserved communities.

According to Accenture, modernizing federal small cell approvals will act as a nationwide economic stimulus program worth $500 billion. San Diego is already saving an estimated $1.9 million annually from a “smart lighting” system, and, nationally, wireless smart lighting enabled by 5G could save the United States $1 billion per year.

Small cells will be especially beneficial to close-knit Asian-American communities in urban areas, where more dense facilities lead to more capacity and reliability in wireless networks.

As an immigrant, nonprofit leader, and entrepreneur, I have made it my mission to give back to communities that have been so generous to my family and me. A key part of that involves helping to empower all members in a community — such as single mothers — who may feel powerless, voiceless, and without the resources to improve their situation. Better communication and new technologies can be their catalyst for empowerment.

I support the FCC’s action to promote faster 5G internet deployment, because there are already enough barriers between my community — and so many others — and the resources they deserve.

Marily Mondejar is founder and CEO of The Filipina Women’s Network, a San Francisco-based, global group advocating to increase the power of Filipina women as leaders at all levels of society.

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