U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today discussed the importance of internet connectivity during the COVID-19 health pandemic. The internet has been thriving due to a light-touch government approach to internet regulation, and Thune noted that in order for the United States to win the race to 5G, we must use that same type of approach. Last year, Thune reintroduced his STREAMLINE Act, legislation that would make it easier for companies to deploy small antennas called “small cells” that can often be attached to existing infrastructure like utility poles or buildings, required for 5G technology.
Click here or on the picture above to watch Thune’s speech.
Excerpt of Thune’s remarks below:
“Mr. President, the internet has been a part of our daily lives for quite a while now: Netflix. Twitter. Amazon.
“But the internet has taken on new importance during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s become the main source of connection with friends and family.
“It’s enabled many people to work from home to help reduce the spread of the virus.
“It’s the main reason schools and colleges have been able to continue teaching students.
“And it’s drastically expanded nascent services like telehealth, which has allowed doctors and other medical professionals to provide patient care remotely.
“Mr. President, with all of this new internet traffic, of course, has come a much greater load on networks.
“And not all countries’ networks have held up to the strain.
“In Europe, networks have had to slow streaming and ask providers like Netflix to diminish the quality of their videos.
“But here in the United States, our networks have faced very few problems.
“And there’s a reason for that.
“Europe and the United States have very different regulatory regimes for the internet.
“In Europe, the internet has been regulated using outdated communications rules designed for telephone monopolies.
“This has resulted in heavy-handed regulation, which has discouraged companies from investing in communications infrastructure and broadband expansion.
“The resulting lack of reliable infrastructure is the primary reason internet performance in Europe has suffered during the pandemic.
“The regulatory situation in the United States, on the other hand, has been much different.
“With a few exceptions, like the brief imposition of so-called net neutrality regulations in 2015, our country has taken a light-touch approach to internet regulation.
“This has encouraged companies to invest in the latest communications infrastructure and new technologies to make more efficient use of spectrum.
“And thanks to that investment, when coronavirus hit and internet usage soared, American networks were ready.
“Despite the additional burden on networks during the pandemic, Americans have been able to enjoy the same high speeds and streaming quality that they typically enjoy.
“Mr. President, right now, most Americans are using 4G networks.
“But the next generation of internet – 5G – is here, and 5G networks are starting to be deployed, including in my home state of South Dakota.
“But if we want the U.S. to handle 5G the way we’ve handled 4G – if we want our 5G networks to be as successful as our 4G networks – we still have some work to do.
“One thing that is absolutely essential is maintaining the light-touch regulatory approach that has produced so much U.S. investment and innovation.
“Despite the success of light-touch regulation, there is always a segment of the Democrat Party pushing for greater government regulation of the internet.
“And that would chill American broadband investment.
“When Democrats briefly succeeded in forcing through heavier government regulations in the latter part of the Obama presidency, broadband infrastructure investment by U.S. companies dropped significantly.
“And it only rebounded when the Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Pai rolled back these heavy-handed regulations.
“Second, the United States still has more work to do to deploy the infrastructure necessary for 5G.
“While 4G relies on traditional cell phone towers, 5G technology will also require small antennas called “small cells” that can often be attached to existing infrastructure like utility poles or buildings.
“Last year, I introduced legislation – the STREAMLINE Act – to make it easier for companies to deploy these small cells so we can get the infrastructure in place for 5G technology.
“We also need to update federal regulations to ensure that it doesn’t take months or years to get permits for wireless infrastructure.
“Mr. President, infrastructure is a key part of the 5G equation.
“The other key part is spectrum.
“Like all internet technology, 5G relies on radio spectrum – what we commonly call the airwaves.
“Radio spectrum is divided into bands – low-band, mid-band, and high-band.
“And 5G will rely upon all three.
“The United States has done a good job freeing up high-band spectrum for 5G.
“But we still need to free up more mid-band spectrum to see full-scale 5G deployment.
“In 2018, Congress passed my MOBILE NOW Act, which helped lay the groundwork for freeing up more mid-band spectrum.
“And this past November, Senator Wicker and I introduced the 5G Spectrum Act to require the Federal Communications Commission to free up a critical portion of mid-band spectrum, commonly referred to as the C-band, for 5G use.
“While Congress did not enact our legislation, at the end of February the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would adopt a framework similar to that outlined in our bill to make 280 megahertz of C-band spectrum available for 5G.
“Finally, Mr. President, we need to ensure that we have the workforce in place to handle the demands of installing and maintaining 5G technology.
“It’s estimated that deploying the necessary infrastructure for 5G will create approximately 50,000 new construction jobs each year over the buildout period.
“And that’s just for construction.
“Right now, there simply aren’t enough workers with the necessary training to meet the needs of nationwide 5G.
“That’s why earlier this year I introduced the Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Act.
“My bill would help increase the number of workers enrolled in 5G training programs and identify ways to grow the telecommunications workforce to meet the demands of 5G.
“Mr. President, the coronavirus has shown us the results of robust investment in 4G infrastructure and spectrum – strong networks that can handle even a steep surge in internet traffic.
“We need to make sure that we’re putting in the necessary work and investment to ensure that our 5G networks are just as strong.
“The 5G future is here.
“Let’s make sure that the United States is ready.”