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In A Debate Over Municipal Rights-Of-Way, Industry and Public Representatives Attempt to Find A Path Forward

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December 15, 2020 — In a spirited debate about one of the central policy issues surrounding the deployment of 5G and small cell deployment, Wednesday’s Broadband Breakfast Live Online featured both municipalities and wireless industry officials each expressing concerns and grievances.

To realize the promise of 5G, far more base stations, or wireless infrastructure facilities, will be necessary to deploy due to limitations associated with mid-band spectrum and faster promised throughput.

Representatives for the municipalities said that their rights-of-way aren’t being respected. Industrial officials said that cities were over-complicating the need for rapid deployment.

5G facilities and towers may not be as big as previous generations of wireless technology. Still, the need for far more facilities has already created tensions between municipalities and wireless providers over rights-of-way.

Earlier in his term as chairman, the current Federal Communications Commission under Ajit Pai issued a wireless infrastructure order that attempted to “remove regulatory barriers” that inhibit the deployment of 5G infrastructure.

The FCC also took action, prompted by a petition from the Wireless Industry Association, under Section 6409 of the 2012 Spectrum Act, to allow wireless service providers to collocate wireless infrastructure, or allow industry to add one or more antenna to pre-existing towers.

“The FCC has tilted the table too much in favor of industry and not enough for communities,” said Gerry Lederer, partner at the law firm Best Best & Krieger. “We’ll see whether a new FCC will level that table more.”

Cities claim that wireless providers are pushing too hard, too fast

Angelina Panettieri, legislative director of technology and communications at the National League of Cities, which represents more than 19,000 cities, towns, and villages across the U.S., said that she was working hard to overturn the FCC’s preemption order.

“I don’t think the issue is local governments not doing enough to speed processes,” said Panettieri, “this is a consequence of our collective failure as a nation to ensure we have adequate infrastructure and affordable access, which has ended up falling on local leaders.”

“At the same time, these communities are facing a faster and deeper cratering of local government funding than we’ve seen since the Great Depression. Many city halls are closed on Friday’s to save money,” she said. “Next year, without significant federal aid, there will be a hollowing out of the local public sector workforce, that will take a decade or more to recover from.”

“Cities and school districts have really moved mountains, shaken the change out of their couch cushions, and partnered with internet service providers to get devices and subsidized internet connections out to students and families,” said Panettieri.

She said that 5G is a tool and not a silver bullet, and that cities need to encourage fiber deeper into the neighborhoods as much as possible.

“We need to stop the fib that 5G is going to address the rural divide,” added Lederer. “If you don’t have fiber, you aren’t going to get 5G; 5G is not the near-term answer.”

Industry counters that speed is necessary to win the 5G deployment race

In response, industry representatives maintained that a speedy turnaround is necessary to win the race to 5G deployment against China.

John Howes, counsel of government affairs for the Wireless Infrastructure Association began his remarks by highlighting another recent FCC achievement: Kicking off the C-Band auction on December 8, generating $1.9 billion in proceeds in its first day. It is the FCC’s largest auction of midband spectrum to date, offering up 280 megahertz of important swaths of 5G spectrum in the 3.7-3.98 GigaHertz (GHz) band.

“The auction is critically important to furthering 5G connectivity across the U.S.” as it offers a relatively quick timeline for potential 5G deployments in the next few years, he said

Part of the effort, he said, involves collaboration. “We have to work with state and local government partners,” said Howes. “There is a race to 5G and it is critical we lead the way.”

To give a sense of the work required to roll out these advanced networks, Timothy Vogel, senior managing associate of general counsel for Verizon Wireless, detailed the company’s attempt to roll out networks around Phoenix.

“Just looking around Pheonix, we see Avondale, Scottsdale, and Paradise Valley — we see the 26 localities that surround Phoenix. To have to come up with different processes in each of the 26 — different fees [and] different rules slows down the process and drives capital to other areas.”

Finding a path to move forward with fiber and 5G deployment

“Certainly there are disagreements,” said moderator Drew Clark, editor and publisher of Broadband Breakfast, but “How can the process be improved? What are successful cities doing now?”

Vogel championed matching the needs of communities with the reality of business to align expectation and understanding, improve existing processes, and address stakeholders’ concerns.

Panettieri pushed back on the idea that the deployment process should be completely universalized, saying that it would likely not be achievable. She instead called for industry to embrace regional collaboration, as has worked with similar utilities and older technologies.

Pannettieri said cities that have thought proactively about street-scape, design, and digital equity are of the best positioned to manage 5G deployment. “Cities like San Jose, which have undergone serious planning around digital equity, know where the need is greatest and what is causing their digital divide — infrastructure, tech literacy, devices, or affordability,” she said.

In defense of maintaining cities’ aesthetics, Lederer accused the private sector of lying about the omnipresence of 5G wireless infrastructure equipment, saying “It would be nice if industry would tell the truth about size. Small cells are not ‘small’, stop going to state legislatures and city councils will small boxes and saying ‘this is a small cell’, and forgetting about the other 28 cubic feet that” come along with it.

In the end, the industry and the municipal representatives agreed that a nationalized approach to 5G deployment would not work.

“We’ll never get to the point where everyone is doing the same thing. People care about how their cities look, that’s why they want to live there,” said Panettieri, adding that it is “important to maintain the authority of the city,” as they have the potential to be good conveners.

The discussion is just one of six events in the event series, “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G,” that is sponsored by Samsung Electronic America.

‘A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G’ sponsored by:

Events in A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G” include:

  • Wednesday, October 14, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: The Hype and the Reality of 5G
    • This opening panel will set the stage for Broadband Breakfast Live Online’s consideration of the policy, technology and practical questions around the 5G wireless standard. What is 5G, and why is there so much buzz about it? How much of an improvement is it over prior generations of wireless? In other words: What is real, and what is hype? How the issues of trusted partners, rights-of-way deployment, and spectrum policy interact? Where is 5G seeing early successes, and what are the stumbling blocks?”
  • Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: National Security and Trusted Partners
    • This panel will consider the global landscape for the 5G equipment ecosystem. It will consider issues in core networks, radio access networks and in handset equipment. How has the global landscape changed? Will 5G benefit from – or suffer because of – a new Cold War with China? How are American companies reacting to federal government initiatives for trusted partners? Where can the U.S. turn for solutions and alternatives to Chinese manufacturers?
  • Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: A Case Study of Transformative Apps in the Enterprise
    • 5G is seeing its first real successes in the enterprise marketplace. To glimpse the future more accurately, Broadband Breakfast Live Online will consider case studies of applications in enterprise environments. What technologies and processes bring 5G success to the business marketplace? What needs to happen to bring 5G successes to the consumer marketplace?
  • Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: Wireless Infrastructure, Municipal Rights-of-Way and the 5G Rural Fund
    • To realize the promise of 5G, far more base stations — wireless infrastructure facilities — will be necessary. 5G facilities and towers may not be as big as in previous generations of wireless technology. Still, the need for far more facilities has already created tensions with municipalities over rights-of-way. How can these conflicts be minimized? What are smart cities already doing to expedite wireless infrastructure deployment? Can the process be improved?
  • Wednesday, January 13, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: The Adoption and Use of 5G Broadband
    • What are some of the likely drivers of 5G equipment and services? How have existing consumer use cases been received? What can we expect from 5G technology in 2021?
  • Wednesday, February 10, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: Spectrum Policies to Advance Better Broadband
    • More than simply the next generation of wireless technology, 5G deployments make use of radio frequencies from an extremely wide range. For example, some 5G deployment are using mid-band spectrum between 3.4 GigaHertz (GHz) and 6 GHz. But 5G networks also promise tap into spectrum between 24 GHz and 100 GHz. It deploys these millimeter bands using network slicing and other advanced wireless tools. What new spectrum policies are necessary for 5G to flourish?

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

5G

Google, Reliant On Success of 5G, Says It Wants Government-Funded Test Beds for Open RAN

Company says that the next generation of its products depend on 5G progress.

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Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai

WASHINGTON, October 20, 2021 — Google made its case for regulators to make room for greater public-private collaboration in the wake of 5G and more research into open radio access network technologies.

Speaking at the FCBA’s “What’s New and Next in Wireless” session on Tuesday, Michael Purdy from Google’s product and policy team emphasized Google’s interest in the emerging 5G landscape, but wants a “collaborative environment” for innovation.

“5G is exciting because of Google’s products depend on 5G,” he said. “[Our] products can’t come to market without it.” Google’s recent product launches include smart-home technologies. Purdy says their products’ benefits are enhanced as 5G is deployed.

Google, like the technology sector at large, is building on the innovation that the “app economy” produced using existing 4G technology and plans to expand their software capabilities with 5G. “The app economy benefited consumers,” Purdy says. “Our lifestyles are going to depend on 5G.” For telehealth, “real time medical advice needs low latency [and] high speeds.”

However, Google hopes for better regulatory conditions during 5G deployment. “We haven’t been as focused on the FCC [for guidance] . . . we want stability to determine spectrum policy.”

Purdy said the company hopes to work collaboratively with government to find solutions for wider 5G deployment. “[We] want to know what position the government takes in creating an open RAN environment.”

The company said it wants government funded-test beds for open RAN, research into development to ensure that “the downside costs are defrayed.” In overcoming these challenges to 5G deployment, Purdy said Google wants the government to foster a “collaborative environment” to develop open RAN. “We don’t want government picking winners and losers in the innovation process” he said.

Purdy added that spectrum sharing between licensed and unlicensed users “can be good for consumers and for industry.”

The Federal Communications Commission has pushed for ways to develop open RAN to minimize network security risk, as the movement has gained significant momentum. FCC Acting Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has described open RAN as having “extraordinary potential for our economy and national security.”

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Huawei Avoids Network Security Questions, Pushes 5G Innovation

Huawei’s CTO avoided questions about concerns over its network infrastructure security as countries ban its products.

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Huawei carrier business CTO Paul Scanlan.

WASHINGTON, October 19, 2021 — Huawei’s chief technology officer did not address questions Monday about the company’s network security practices during a session on how 5G drives economic growth, but said the focus should be on the evolutionary technology instead.

Paul Scanlan, Huawei’s CTO in the carrier business group, focused his presentation at the Economist Impact Innovation@Work conference on the promise of 5G technology and ignored concerns about network safety.

“We can service more customers with 5G” to start bridging the digital divide, he said. The pandemic has given the company an insight into customer behavior to better channel its data traffic needs. “5G performs better for the types of services we use now” he says, such as video streaming and user-generated content.

Scanlan avoided specific questions about his company’s technology and steered the conversation toward providing faster speeds for the health care industry. “Give me some use instances where the company has introduced 5G and helped companies be efficient” asked the moderator, Ludwig Siegele. “I’d like to stick on the health care sector, that’s more topical as you can imagine,” Scanlan responded.

“People are missing [innovation in 5G] because of geopolitical issues around the world,” said Scanlan. “Being able to collect the data and analyze it is where the business benefit lies . . . 5G adoption through the [standardized network] ecosystem is very important and we see this with 5G” for interoperability with other companies and providers.

Huawei’s promotion of their telecommunications products continues as the U.S. maintains national security sanctions against the tech giant. The impact of U.S. sanctions results a drop in sales for the company in 2021. The FCC has also recommended that Huawei’s equipment be listed as “high risk” to U.S. network security. Huawei told the FCC it cannot show the company’s equipment is a threat to U.S. networks.

Huawei’s global head of cybersecurity said this summer that President Joe Biden‘s executive order banning investments in Chinese companies is a “policy misstep” that will not only lose the U.S. a huge market, but will just make the company more self-sufficient.

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Celebrating Progress on 5G, the FCC’s Brendan Carr Urges Broadband Mapping

5G crusader Commissioner Brendan Carr voiced pride in the FCC’s focus on 5G over the past four years

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Photo of Brendan Carr from the Tennessee Star

WASHINGTON, October 15, 2021–Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr on Friday celebrated U.S. progress in 5G wireless investment and urged the completion of the agency’s broadband mapping initiative.

Speaking a the Free State Foundation gala luncheon, Carr argued that the United States has progressed in its 5G investments and is catching up to foreign networks. ”Years ago we imaged the U.S. would be left behind in 5G,” he said.

He touted his and former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s efforts to “remove the red tape.” Enabling the private sector has paid off, he said: The U.S. has jumped 20 places on the country internet speed index, signaling the installation of more robust U.S. 5G networks.

Further, the FCC should complete its broadband mapping process and take caution with the federal money allocated toward broadband deployment, he said, adding that he asked the FCC earlier this year to complete its map by fall 2021.

“There’s planning that can take place when the maps are completed” he said, reflecting a desire from the public and private sector for better, more accurate broadband maps.

He also said that federal money allocated toward the FCC’s efforts to bridge the digital divide should be used carefully, and that money to connect unconnected Americas should not be wasted.

Carr celebrated American investment in 5G progress earlier this year, calling U.S. leadership in 5G “one of the greatest success stories in of the past four years.” In that time, the FCC opened up more than six gigahertz of spectrum for 5G services.

Former FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly also gave remarks at the event, expressing concern about the federal Made In America policy’s implications on the telecommunications sector.

The Made in America policy refers to President Biden’s push to increase American made content in supply chains. O’Rielly, who left the Commission in December 2020, argued that the policy limits telecommunications companies to the kinds of products that can be made available to consumers.

The Free State Foundation’s Randy May at the Friday event

He also questioned “what it means to be an American manufacturer” because foreign companies are “in essence, being punished by law” for having “investments in the U.S. with U.S. workers as part of a U.S. subsidiary.”

In O’Rielly’s view, the location of the companies headquarters does not impact its national security risk to the U.S.

The remarks by Carr and O’Rielly were at the 15th anniversary celebration for the free-market think tank. Carr said that the foundation has been an “invaluable resource” and has been cited more than 200 times in FCC decisions.

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