The DC Council Should Follow the FCC’s Lead on Embracing Competition and Innovation

A few weeks ago the District of Columbia Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment convened a public roundtable to discuss the rollout of implementation of 5G small cell technology in the city. Sadly however, instead of embracing the next wave of game-changing technology for the region, District council members have indicated that they’ll pursue obstructionism. The motivation is clear: localities across the country have used 5G rollout paperwork like a piggy bank, forcing companies to clear costly and unnecessary hurdles before installing new technology - all to the detriment of their constituents.

Taxpayers in the District of Columbia would see overwhelmingly positive benefits from streamlined rollout of next-generation 5G wireless communications technology. Studies have shown that 5G rollout will create more jobs and lead to more economic growth, and lowering the regulatory barriers to this technology will be unambiguously good for consumers. Even more to the point from our perspective, and as we’ve noted before, taxpayers will specifically benefit from 5G network deployment as governments become more efficient with their own services (and taxpayer dollars as a result), such as sanitation and traffic management.

In the Chief Financial Officer's most recent regional comparison of taxes, a District family at the $75,000 income level faced a combined income, sales, property, and automobile tax burden of just over 8 percent, compared to 9.7 percent in Montgomery County and over 10 percent in other neighboring jurisdictions. If the District government is to maintain the competitive advantage that the Chief Financial Officer's analysis appears to indicate, then wise tax and regulatory policies toward innovations like 5G are an absolute imperative.  

The D.C. council should instead look across town to the proactive efforts coming from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) aimed at putting consumers and taxpayers first while embracing the next great wave in wireless network innovation. Throughout 2018, the FCC has pursued a policy of streamlined 5G networks rollout, relying on smart regulatory processes and a light-touch approach to allow next-generation technology to reach Americans across the country as quickly as possible.

For example, in March the FCC advanced an order to modernizing outdated permitting processes holding up nationwide-deployment of 5G small cell antennas. In September the agency once again voted in favor of an order which encourages greater cooperation between the FCC and localities with regards to wireless infrastructure permitting, timely reviews of build-out proposals, and opposing unreasonable fees on the wireless providers deploying 5G technology.

Both of these initiatives led by FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr serve as the model for cutting through bureaucratic red tape and working together with states and localities to unleash 5G for the benefit of America’s taxpayers and consumers. The DC City Council would be wise to look to Commissioner Carr’s example rather than standing in the way of innovation and economic growth.