Creating equitable access to broadband internet has been a longtime U.S. policy goal. Today, broadband is so influential in society that it’s become essential infrastructure, even if it isn’t yet ubiquitous. The recent signing of the landmark Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will go a long way toward realizing that goal. In remarks following the House passage, President Biden repeated his memorable line that “no parent should have to sit in a parking lot of a fast-food restaurant so their child can do their homework.”
The law includes $65 billion to help close the gaps in broadband access and adoption, the largest such investment by far in the nation’s history. But federal investment is just one important piece of the puzzle. Many important decisions about the hardware, software, and services that power broadband are yet to be made. And unfortunately, a complex and sometimes self-defeating federal regulatory spat may yet stand in the way.
To a large extent, achieving our ambitious broadband goal depends on the success of our nation’s 5G rollout. Consumers are just beginning to see the benefits of this transformational technological shift. The higher speeds and lower latency 5G offers opens up a huge range of possibilities for innovation, from media and manufacturing to healthcare and transportation.
Few technological leaps have posed as many financial, technological, regulatory, and security hurdles as 5G. The latest barrier to full deployment comes in the form of an eleventh-hour effort by aviation organizations and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to raise safety concerns about the use of additional radio spectrum for 5G about to come online, known as C-Band. The C-Band spectrum is the critical piece that will allow 5G to achieve its full potential in the U.S.
The FAA has issued a warning that 5G equipment operating in C-Band spectrum could interfere with radio altimeters, the devices pilots use to gauge the distance between an aircraft and the ground. Carriers agreed to a pause and other measures in using this spectrum to allow the FAA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to resolve their differences. In spite of the fact, there is ample evidence to show the FAA’s fears are unfounded. These steps have done little to mollify the aviation community, and it is time to move forward.
The FCC is the federal agency with the responsibility and expertise to resolve spectrum interference problems. The FCC’s experts and engineers have studied this issue since 2017, considering input from a large range of stakeholders, including the aviation community. They determined that the cushion between the C-Band and frequencies used by flight altimeters is more than sufficient to allow aviation and 5G to safely coexist.
To take advantage of this large investment in broadband, we need to move deftly to fully deploy 5G technology. Doing so will provide access to broadband internet in many underserved areas, including rural parts of America. And it will advance innovation and investments that will create many of tomorrow’s good-paying jobs.
Unfounded fears or regulatory turf wars not only hurt the U.S. but actually help our biggest competitor, China. Their massive state investments and rapid embrace of 5G technology are already putting them ahead in the race. We should not help them achieve their goals by throttling our own progress. For the good of the nation, it’s time to capitalize on this historic opportunity before us.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by Homeland Security Today, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints in support of securing our homeland. To submit a piece for consideration, email [email protected].