U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today discussed the effort to make 5G a reality in the United States. Last Friday, Thune was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to unveil the city’s first 5G cells.
Thune has been a leader in the race to make 5G a reality, authoring the MOBILE NOW Act, which was signed into law in 2018, and the bipartisan STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act, legislation he reintroduced in June.
Click here to watch Thune’s speech.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, last Friday was an exciting day.
“I was home in Sioux Falls to mark a huge milestone for the city and for South Dakota – the unveiling of Sioux Falls’ first 5G small cells.
“By the end of this month, Sioux Falls will have a working, albeit limited, 5G network – one of the first cities in the entire country to have one.
“Mr. President, most people take internet access for granted these days.
“We assume that anywhere we go, we’ll be able to access our GPS, check Facebook, or send a text message.
“But the truth is that there are still areas of the United States where it can be difficult to get reliable internet access.
“Some of those areas are in South Dakota.
“That’s why expanding access to broadband internet in rural communities has been a priority of mine since I came to the Senate.
“While it can be nice to turn off our phones and take a break, in this day and age Americans need reliable internet access.
“More and more of the business of daily life is being conducted over the internet, from scheduling appointments to figuring out the shortest way from point A to point B.
“The internet has also become an integral part of commerce.
“Small businesses and farms in areas without dependable internet access miss out on a lot of opportunities that most businesses take for granted.
“Both as chairman and as a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, I’ve had the chance to draw attention to the state of broadband access in rural communities.
“I’ve conducted numerous hearings with testimony from rural broadband providers, farmers, tribal representatives, and federal officials both here in Washington and in my home state of South Dakota.
“Over the past several years, we’ve seen the number of Americans lacking access to broadband decrease significantly.
“But there’s more work to be done.
“And with the advent of 5G technology, we now have to expand our efforts to make deploying 5G technology to rural communities a priority.
“Mr. President, most of us think today’s internet is pretty fast.
“We get traffic updates that are basically in real time, receive emails seconds after they’ve been sent, and stream our favorite shows at home or on the go.
“But 5G will make 4G look like dial-up.
“It will deliver lightning-fast speeds up to 100 times faster than what today’s technology delivers.
“That’s hard to imagine.
“After all, as I said, today’s technology seems pretty fast.
“But 5G will enable near-instant responsiveness from our phones and other devices.
“However, 5G is about a lot more than streaming more shows on more devices, or receiving emails instantly.
“In addition to being up to 100 times faster than current speeds, 5G will be vastly more responsive than 4G technology and will be able to connect 100 times the number of devices that can be connected with 4G.
“Because of this, 5G will enable massive breakthroughs in health care, transportation, agriculture, and other key industries.
“And it will bring new opportunities and benefits to rural communities in particular.
“5G will pave the way for the widespread adoption of precision agriculture, which uses tools like robotics and remote monitoring to help farmers manage their fields and boost their crop yields.
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that precision agriculture will reduce farmers’ operational costs by up to $25 per acre and increase farmers’ yields by up to 70 percent by 2050.
“5G will also make it easier for residents of rural communities to access business and educational opportunities and long-distance health care.
“Mr. President, the technology for 5G is already here and is actually being implemented, as Friday’s event in Sioux Falls demonstrates.
“But there’s more work to do before 5G is a reality across the United States.
“In order to deploy 5G, wireless providers need access to sufficient spectrum, and they need to be able to deploy the infrastructure needed to support the technology in a reasonable and timely manner.
“Last year, the president signed into law my bipartisan MOBILE NOW Act, legislation I introduced to help secure adequate spectrum for 5G technology.
“And earlier this year, Senator Schatz and I reintroduced the STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act to address the other part of the 5G equation – infrastructure.
“5G technology will require not just traditional cell phone towers, but small antennas called “small cells” that can often be attached to existing infrastructure like utility poles or buildings.
“While the Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Pai has modernized its regulations on small cell siting, there’s more work to be done.
“That’s where my bill, the STREAMLINE Act, comes in.
“The STREAMLINE Act will expedite the deployment of small cells while respecting the role of state and local governments in making deployment decisions.
“And importantly, it will make it more affordable to bring 5G to rural areas by addressing the costs of small cell deployment.
“5G has tremendous promise for rural areas, but it will only deliver on that promise if we ensure that 5G cells are actually deployed in these areas.
“I’m proud that we’ve made a good start in South Dakota.
“Sioux Falls’ mayor Paul TenHaken has worked aggressively to remove barriers to telecommunications investment in Sioux Falls.
“Nationally, we urgently need to take action to remove the final barriers to large-scale 5G deployment.
“While we’ve made good progress on securing low- and high-band spectrum, China and South Korea are far ahead of us in opening up mid-band spectrum for 5G.
“If we don’t want China and South Korea to win the race to 5G – and seize the economic benefits 5G will bring – we need to substantially increase the amount of mid-band spectrum available to U.S. companies quickly.
“We also need to take action on legislation like my STREAMLINE Act to pave the way for the widespread deployment of 5G infrastructure.
“Mr. President, America can lead the world in the 5G revolution.
“The technology, as I said, is here.
“We just need to take the final steps to bring 5G into our communities.“I look forward to continuing to work to support the nationwide deployment of 5G.”