The race is on.
Across the nation, states are preparing for 5G — rapidly evolving technology that will be the backbone of broadband’s future.
What exactly is it? Currently, our broadband system (which powers almost everything you do on your cellphone) runs on 4G technology. 5G will drive speeds up to 10 times faster. You’ll be able to connect reliably and consistently to exponentially more devices, with virtually no latency or “lag time.”
But we’re not just talking about lightning-fast downloads: 5G paves the way for smart cities, autonomous vehicles, remote surgery, and so much more. To say it will revolutionize the way we live, work, play, and interact is a vast understatement.
The technology is changing, and our laws need to change with it. More than 20 other states, including Virginia and Delaware, have passed legislation to lay the groundwork for 5G. Here in Maryland, House Bill 654 would do just that — update our regulations to prepare for, encourage, and embrace the installation of modern broadband infrastructure.
The framework behind 5G is made up of “small cells,” or small antennas that are installed on utility poles, buildings, and street lights to power our 5G system. Under House Bill 654, private wireless companies will foot the bill for installation and train and hire new employees in the process. Meanwhile, local communities will sign off on the plans, collecting permitting fees to cover costs in the process.
The fact is that Maryland needs to pass House Bill 654 now just to stay competitive with the rest of the nation and the world. In the not-so-distant future, 5G will be essential to attracting and retaining the tech-heavy companies, entrepreneurs, startups, and established global brands that bring jobs, investment, and long-term growth.
One study found that reforms aimed at encouraging 5G could lead to an estimated 6,427 jobs in Maryland, not to mention a $9 billion increase in Maryland’s Gross State Product, among many other benefits across all sectors of our economy.
Most importantly, 5G will save lives. Biometrics will allow doctors to remotely identify, treat, and prevent health conditions before patients even know they exist. Wearable devices, artificial intelligence, and sophisticated communications will empower emergency first responders to provide advanced care and diagnostics while enhancing their own safety.
And the ability to monitor roads, railways, and bridges in real time means near-instantaneous responses to potential emergencies. In short, 5G will bring stronger emergency management, better medical care, and safer communities.
There’s no question that those who clear the way for 5G and the small-cell infrastructure that makes it possible will lead the pack in realizing its tremendous and widespread benefits. But we must take steps today to position ourselves for the opportunities of tomorrow.
Let’s pass House Bill 654 and get Maryland in shape for one of the biggest build-outs of tech infrastructure in history. And let’s do it now. It’s time to begin running towards the endless possibilities of 5G.
After all, this is a race we can’t afford to lose.
Marty Rosendale is CEO of the Maryland Tech Council.