by Chairman Mike Rogers
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing one of the largest and most sudden societal behavioral changes in American history. To stop the spread of the virus, many cities and states, and indeed countries, are ordering their citizens to stay home as part of social distancing and self-quarantining.
Schools are closed, employees are working from home, and more and more of us are online to greater degrees than even before the outbreak. This is placing incredible strain on our communications infrastructure. If you think that strain is bad now, just wait until the Internet of Things takes off and even more of our lives take place on or through the Internet.
That’s what we need to start thinking about and preparing for now—the next crisis. We will absolutely weather this current pandemic. It will be tough and uncomfortable, but we will manage and life will find a new normal. But we must prepare and think ahead to the next disaster. This is why we need to truly invest in the next generation of wireless technology—5G. Tools and technologies based on 5G could offer a significant improvement over what we have today in a crisis or disaster scenario.
Fifth generation wireless offers greater speed, greater bandwidth, and greater opportunities not just in a crisis scenario, but in the normal course of our day-to-day lives. 5G offers a significant increase over its 4G predecessor, allowing more users to stream, download, and upload more data simultaneously. 5G has the ability to support a 100x increase in traffic capacity and network efficiency. Pound for pound, 5G is an exponential increase over what we have today and could better weather the strain we are seeing today.
A 5G Internet of Things could better track inventories, ensure materials are distributed to where they are needed, and greatly help emergency managers coordinate responses and preventative measures. Linking first responders with disaster coordinators and government officials could well streamline how we manage crises in a way that we just can’t do right now.
Today’s communications backbone is already straining under the COVID-added weight. As a result of this pandemic, and for the foreseeable future, more employees will be working from home. This may well become the new norm, and it is having an impact. Now that most sectors have transitioned to working remotely, your home network is having to deal with more than usual. On top of your usage, your roommate may also be video conferencing into work, or your partner streaming a movie, or your children downloading and using multiple apps.
This is not a regular surge in use, and it’s having an effect. Netflix, Facebook, Disney+, and other streaming services have consciously reduced their streaming quality in Europe because the internet infrastructure was not prepared for this massive and sudden flood of users. While this issue is trivial in the grand scheme of things, it’s indicative of the strain the networks are experiencing.
Some U.S. government officials have resorted to holding meetings on iPhone group calls because the regular conference lines were overwhelmed and stopped working. As Americans increasingly work from home, their personal technology will only become even more mixed with their professional tools, creating more and more opportunities for hackers.
This investment in 5G is sensible not just for that crisis scenario, but for delivering high speed Internet to those who don’t even have basic broadband access at all. At least 25 million Americans will have an even more fundamental problem with teleworking – not having broadband at home. No American should have less opportunity or be at risk of losing their job because of where they live, particularly during a crisis.
Getting this right requires developing and implementing a national 5G strategy. We’ve started to make smart decisions: a few weeks ago, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai proposed a public auction for the critical spectrum needed for 5G deployment. This spectrum is currently held by satellite companies, but under Chairman Pai’s plan, the auction will fairly compensate these companies and open the spectrum for development. With that spectrum open, companies can start developing and exploiting this for new and novel 5G technologies.
We also need to encourage research and development through smart seed investment. There are countless creative companies out there with ideas on how to capitalize on 5G’s promise, but just need a kickstart. We also need to develop innovative financing methods for western companies, companies that share our democratic and free market principles, so that they can compete on the international stage with China, which directly and unfairly supports its own companies.
Getting 5G right will help see us through the next crisis, will connect more Americans to the Internet, will create unparalleled economic opportunities, and will help ensure our national and economic security well into the future. Our country works best under pressure, and right now we’re under a lot of pressure. If we work together and look beyond the current crisis to the future, we can build a stronger America.
-5G Action Now