Federal Leadership on 5G Should Promote Collaboration Between Cities

Late last week, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Brendan Carr shared his perspective on how 5G is shaping the future of cities at the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ annual meeting. Making America #5gReady has been a priority for him, especially as it relates to cutting red tape and incentivizing broadband buildout.

His primary focus has been the nation’s outdated infrastructure policies, which continue to be roadblocks on the path to smart cities and a 5G future. The goal at the FCC, as Commissioner Carr has noted, is to make it easier for consumers to get reliable connectivity and provide communities with real next-generation opportunities.

It’s good to have strong federal leadership when it comes to connectivity. Commissioner Carr is one of only a few at the federal level demonstrating a holistic view on how to build capacity at the foundational level of the Smart City Pyramid.

Beyond the benefit of connectivity, 5G deployment makes economic sense. New networks are expected to add 3 million new jobs, $275 billion in private sector network investment and result in $500 billion in GDP growth according to Accenture. This is particularly encouraging to our nation’s urban communities  that are likely to be first to receive 5G benefits.

 FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr

Small and mid-size cities also stand to benefit economically and socially from 5G. But to Commissioner Carr’s point in Boston, access to this opportunity will depend on city leaders reducing regulatory barriers that stymie 5G investment and deployment and create a hospitable environment for investment rather than being a costly place to do business. For example, eliminating costly permitting issues means there is more capital for the private sector to expend in areas.

If cities want investment, they’ll need to work together for the greater good. The era of smart cities will be one that transcends the zero sum game of traditional economic development meaning that not only will cities be more connected, but they have the opportunity to be more equitable and responsive to their residents. It is no longer about cities competing against each other for resources. Instead, by assessing existing policy protocols, streamlining, communicating, collaborating and making the process transparent, communities of all sizes can win.

Decreasing red tape at all levels of government mean more dollars deployed to ready the nation’s digital infrastructure for the coming smart city future. There is no time to waste. From China to Singapore to Stockholm, city and industry leaders alike are preparing for a 5G enabled world. And in order to compete on a global level, the U.S. must come together. I am encouraged by Commissioner Carr’s leadership here and hope to see more done to encourage this kind of thinking.