U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, was a featured speaker today at an Axios-hosted event about innovation in America’s cities. Thune discussed South Dakota’s role in helping America win the race to 5G mobile broadband technology and his efforts to spur technology, spectrum availability, and innovation by way of legislative initiatives like his MOBILE NOW Act, which became law in 2018, STREAMLINE Small Cell Deployment Act, and AV START Act.
South Dakota Leadership:
“What I hope to do is to be able to see rural areas benefit from [5G] as well,” said Thune. “I think a lot of it will have to do with the individual communities … We have a new, young mayor in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who is very aggressively working to make sure that Sioux Falls and that South Dakota is on the map when it comes to fifth generation technology, looking at ways to lower barriers and impediments to that type of investment, and seeking partners who will help join in that effort.”
“I think the companies that are going to invest in this are going to be looking for those cities and states that have a progressive view of how we get there and make it easier, not harder to develop that. Like I said, the city of Sioux Falls is really leading on that. Our municipal league in South Dakota has come up with a sort of a standard ordinance that municipalities can adopt that again would enable investment and build-out. I think we have to make it easier, not harder when it comes to the role that governments play if we want to see this really develop quickly.”
“In a state like South Dakota, we have a lot of rural telephone cooperatives and smaller companies that are making investments, and there are programs that are available that provide incentives for them to do that. We have a company called Golden West Telecom in western South Dakota, which is where I’m from, and they’ve done a great job – have figured out how to leverage some of the federal opportunities that are available, and they’ve built out a lot and are continuing to build out, and we want to incentivize that.”
Innovation’s effect on industries:
“If you look at rural areas of the country, you know, you take, for example, a farmer in South Dakota that uses precision agriculture – field sensors, remote monitoring, mobile devices, the ability to regulate how much fertilizer, water, seed, pesticide you apply to a particular tract of ground, and maximize not only your yields – the bushels that you derive from that – but also to drive down your operating costs, it’s going to make it way more profitable.
“I mean, the productivity gains are going to be enormous in so many sectors of the economy – agriculture of course being one that’s important in our state, but telemedicine, telehealth, I mean, that has life-saving opportunities. You heard about ‘smart cities’ and reducing congestion – you know, the amount of pollutants we’re putting into the environment. There are some enormous gains that are out there for us, but it is going to take a competitive, free market approach to this where everybody is in there trying to do their best to win the race.”