Will Virginia Lead the Way on 5G Technology?

The Virginia General Assembly is currently debating legislation that would make the state a leader in telecommunications and innovation. If enacted, the legislation would hasten the deployment of 5G technology in the state, which will improve connectivity, lead to faster speeds for broadband consumers, and encourage more economic growth.

Last summer, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) cleared the way to make high band spectrum available for 5G technology. The last major hurdles to the deployment of this promising technology are  state and local regulations. Currently, states and localities across the country, including many in Virginia, enact significant barriers to 5G deployment through burdensome regulations and discriminatory fees.

Unlike traditional wireless towers, 5G deployment requires small cells that more naturally blend with the environment. Regrettably, many state and local regulators apply the same stringent standard for these small cell towers as they do for larger towers. By creating a statewide standard, streamlining the regulatory approval process and lowering costs for providers, the legislation has the potential to clear the way for wide-scale 5G deployment and make Virginia a cutting edge leader for this technology.

Legislators should seize the opportunity to embrace 5G technology. A recent study by Accenture highlights the promising benefits of 5G deployment. Employing 5G, once fully operational, would lead to approximately $275 billion in investment, create nearly 3 million jobs and boost Gross Domestic Product by $500 billion across the country, according to the study. Of particular importance and relevance to NTU’s members are the benefits of 5G to taxpayers. A whole host of government services and functions – among them traffic system management, public building maintenance and energy efficiency, tele-health services in programs for the underserved, and first responder capabilities – can be made more cost-effective with this technology, reducing the fiscal pressure on residents of localities. At the same time, robust economic growth from 5G can provide a far more stable and sustainable revenue stream for governments over the long-run than ill-advised increases in tax rates.

If Virginia fails to pass this legislation, it is choosing to forgo the benefits that will come from widespread deployment of 5G technologies. Meanwhile, other states will embrace a modern regulatory environment that will allow 5G technologies to flourish, leaving Virginia behind. The Commonwealth shouldn't miss out on this opportunity to be on the cutting edge of the next communications evolution.