Enabling Private 5G Infrastructure Deployment: Vital for Entrepreneurship and Dynamic Small Biz Growth

By at 16 March, 2018, 2:16 pm

Small Business Roundtable with FCC Commissioner Carr: Upcoming Vote Paves the Way for Deployment of Faster, More Reliable Wireless Service  

by Raymond J. Keating-

There’s a great deal of talk about infrastructure of late. But where real opportunity for productive, private-sector infrastructure investment exists is in the area of next generation, or 5G, wireless technology.

Entrepreneurs more than most understand the benefits of the investments already made in broadband telecommunications, and look forward to improved, faster and more reliable wireless service that will come with investments in 5G. In turn, it’s critical that policymakers at the federal, state and local levels get the policies relating to 5G investment right.

Therefore, an important roundtable discussion was hosted by the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council (SBE Council) in Washington, D.C., on March 14 covering America’s 5G future, and what the implications would be for the economy, entrepreneurship, and small businesses across industries and the nation. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr was a participant, along with Kristie Arslan, co-owner of Popped! Republic and entrepreneur-in-residence at SBE Council, and Jen Oberhausen, director of regulatory affairs at CTIA – The Wireless Association, with SBE Council President and CEO Karen Kerrigan serving as moderator.

FCC Proposal to Enable 5G Deployment

It was an informative discussion with the primary emphasis on an FCC order that would streamline the deployment of 5G.  Commissioner Carr is leading the initiative. He has been a strong advocate for getting communities the broadband they need to economically prosper and grow.

Rather than the big towers associated with previous wireless facilities, the deployment of 5G will involve hundreds of thousands of small, backpack-size facilities that can be attached to buildings, on light poles and other structures, which blend in with their environment. Putting these investments through the same kind of slow and costly regulatory process as has governed past investments makes no sense, and will only delay and limit 5G deployment in the U.S., thereby hurting U.S. entrepreneurs, small businesses, workers, consumers and competitiveness.

Commissioner Carr noted that regulatory red tape needs to be cut so that the tremendous benefits of 5G, including further empowering and unleashing America’s entrepreneurs, can be fully realized. He noted that the U.S. is in a race with other nations to establish the best regulatory climate to attract the necessary financial capital for 5G investments. He declared, “The race is real.”

Reducing Red Tape and Saving Billions

He explained that the FCC’s order, which will be voted on at the commission’s March 22 meeting, is a balanced proposal. First, 5G small cell deployment would be excluded from federal environmental and historic preservation reviews (that is, from the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act). Second, 4G deployment reviews would be streamlined as well.

Also, there was a productive discussion about the FCC and others working with states and localities in terms of rationalizing their rules, regulations and fee structures so as to incentivize, rather than discourage, 5G investment and deployment. Currently, some states and localities are leading the way, while others badly lag behind.

The Need for Fast, Mobile Broadband is Real

Food Trucks Powered by Mobile: As Kristie Arslan, co-owner of Popped! Republic, noted at the 5G roundtable with FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, “Our food truck runs completely on mobile technology. Speed and consistent access are key factors for connectivity.”

Kristie Arslan, co-owner of Popped! Republic, which is a gourmet popcorn company with two facilities and a food truck in the Washington, D.C. area, explained how 5G investment would be important to her business, as mobile technology has been and will continue to be “central” to her firm’s success, including being able to expand and create jobs. She explained that access to reliable mobile technology is a key part of their decision-making process in terms of operating and growing her business. She said her fellow food truck entrepreneurs feel the same way, and that increased speed and consistency from 5G would be a big plus.

Streamlining Rules for Deployment: Huge Cost Savings

For good measure CTIA’s Jen Oberhausen highlighted key points from a new Accenture study the group released. The point of the study was to “assess the impacts of regulatory reviews required for the National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NHPA/NEPA) on 5G small cell roll-outs by U.S. wireless carriers.” The findings included that “29% of deployment costs are related to NHPA/NEPA regulations when reviews are required,” and that an estimated $1.56 billion could be saved “if the proportion of small cells requiring review under NHPA/NEPA could be reduced by two-thirds.”

Small Businesses are the Big Beneficiaries

Finally, it must be noted that small businesses would benefit as consumers/users of broadband mobile services – including so many small firms in rural America – and as the majority of employer firms involved in the overall telecommunications industry itself.

According to the latest Census Bureau data, 83.1 percent of employer firms in telecommunications have fewer than 20 workers and 94.8 percent less than 100 employees. As SBE Council President and CEO Karen Kerrigan has noted, “This means small firms will play a key role in the deployment, servicing and revolution of 5G networks.”

The benefits for small businesses, for consumers and for the economy in general are clear. What we need to do now is clarify and rationalize regulations at the federal, state and local levels so as to incentives private-sector 5G investment and deployment. Thankfully the current FCC and Commissioner Carr are leading the way to help America win the race to 5G, which will help our small businesses compete, grow and succeed.


Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

Keating’s latest book published by SBE Council is titled Unleashing Small Business Through IP:  The Role of Intellectual Property in Driving Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Investment and it is available free on SBE Council’s website here.


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