US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: South Dakota Can Be the Leader in 5G

South Dakota Can Be the Leader in 5G
By Sen. John Thune

I’ve had the privilege of serving as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee for nearly four years now. Over the years, my committee, which has broad jurisdiction over things like our nation’s transportation system, consumer protection, and technology, has held hearings on a variety of topics. We’ve covered everything from planes, trains, and automobiles to Twitter and Facebook to the ecosystem’s dependence on sharks. We’ve heard and seen it all.

Earlier this year, I convened a hearing in Washington to explore America’s leadership in the race toward 5G mobile broadband technology.

To put 5G technology into perspective, think about your first data-enabled mobile phone and, while we considered it fast at the time, how long it took to load mobile apps or webpages.

Flash forward to today, and there’s no doubt mobile broadband technology has improved. With a few quick clicks, you can get a ride in an Uber, order movie tickets, or pay for your parking meter without even having to leave a restaurant.

Believe it or not, as fast as our devices are today, 5G mobile broadband technology will help deliver speeds that are 100 times faster than what today’s technology can deliver.

While there are obvious and important benefits to faster speeds, there are equally as important, but perhaps less obvious, benefits to the United States getting to 5G before our global competitors. It means more opportunities, more jobs, and more economic development. According to some estimates, 5G could contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the U.S. economy.

American innovators and entrepreneurs have for generations been pioneers. Americans invented and flew the first airplane. We put the first man on the moon. There’s no reason why we can’t be first in the 5G revolution, too. As chairman of the Commerce Committee, I want to help the United States win this race, and I want South Dakota to be at the forefront.

It’s with that in mind that I’ll be taking the Commerce Committee on the road. On October 5, I’ll be picking up where we left off in Washington and will convene a field hearing in Sioux Falls to examine the hurdles that are making it more difficult for states and communities to continue moving the ball down the field on this important issue.

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken, who shares my goal of bringing the world’s fastest internet to South Dakota, will join me, as will Federal Communications Commission Chairman Brendan Carr, Dakota State University President José-Marie Griffiths, and representatives from Verizon and Midcontinent Communications.

The technology already exists to make 5G a reality. It’s up to local, state, and federal leaders to work together on getting the necessary infrastructure in place, while also freeing up additional spectrum, the airwaves on which the frequencies that support mobile broadband travel.

Together we can make it work, and I’m confident we will.


8 Replies to “US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: South Dakota Can Be the Leader in 5G”

  1. David Barranco

    Agree 100% that 5G “means more opportunities, more jobs, and more economic development.” Senator Thune is quite correct when he says: “American innovators and entrepreneurs have for generations been pioneers. Americans invented and flew the first airplane. We put the first man on the moon. There’s no reason why we can’t be first in the 5G revolution, too. As chairman of the Commerce Committee, I want to help the United States win this race, and I want South Dakota to be at the forefront.”

    Even in these deeply divided days, reasonable South Dakotans can unite behind Senator Thune’s superb proposal. I’m all in. Let’s roll up sleeves, don the hardhat, and get to work.

    1. Ike

      5G is useless without net neutrality – especially for startups and entrepeneurs, not to mention consumers. AT&T/Verizon pulling Johnny’s strings again – and you willingly gobble it up, still wondering why your phone bill keeps increasing and yet your service is still crappy.

      1. Anonymous

        Still lacking those comprehension skills.

        Kent Walker (Google’s chief legal officer) admits market forces will prevent ISPs from censoring content. Essentially he states net neutrality is unnecessary. Matthew Berry also made a statement (@matthewberryfcc 9/13/18) concerning your meltdown.

        If your bill is increasing might I suggest you find a new phone carrier? You’re being schooled and spreading lies, but that’s nothing new for Ike and his leftist drivel.

        1. Ike

          …says the guy who thinks net neutrality is about censorship.

          And using Google as an example is a friggin’ joke, right? They’re all over the place as they straddle the line between being an ISP (Google Fiber) and a content provider (YouTube). Other quotes from FCC officials are equally laughable – they repealed net neutrality rules… what did you EXPECT them to say? Ashit Pai is a former Verizon lawyer, ffs. Follow the money – it’s YOURS afterall.

  2. a friend of education

    When Central Pacific and Southern Pacific completed the first transcontinental railroad, chairman Leland Stanford benefited enormously. Like an oligarch, he used his power to soak the government for millions. He acquired valuable real estate for pennies. He underpaid workers, many of whom died to complete the project. Nevertheless, the railroad was an economic boon for the United States and its citizens. It opened the west to commerce. It created good jobs. It increased economic mobility. As with the Erie Canal and the Interstate Highway system, America would have suffered had we refused to build it.

    I get your point. Taking history as guide, our building a 5G network may benefit contemporary robber barons more than it will benefit little guys like us. AT&T, Apple, Comcast, Google, Amazon, and especially Facebook stand to make untold billions. Like Leland Stanford, greedy Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos may use their political influence to enrich themselves obscenely. An ethical case can be made that citizens should recapture some of that wealth, re-investing it into socially beneficial projects, such as healthcare and education.

    But we’d be fools to pass up the opportunity. Senator Thune sees that. Expanding the network will spur job creation and foster small businesses growth. 5G will empower South Dakota’s middle class. It will raise our standard of living. It will make us more productive. It will help us compete internationally. It will make daily life easier and more fun.

    I fear you may be right, Ike, about Google, Microsoft, and the greedy tech corps. Oligarchs will use their power as a tool, rigging the game to their benefit. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let’s build the network. When it’s done, let’s debate the best way to approach our unjustly enriched elites. I’m a big fan of Teddy Roosevelt. Maybe it’s time to bust some trusts.

  3. a friend of education

    All Americans deserve high-speed internet access at a reasonable cost, just as we deserve access to electricity, gas, and water. I can see regulating ISPs as we regulate public utilities. Firms should be allowed to make a reasonable profit, not gouge consumers. Sounds as though we agree there.

    Supporters of net neutrality, including Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon, argue that ISPs have too much control over the Internet’s “pipes” and that ISPs engage in all sorts shady conduct. Opponents argue that bad ISP actions were rare before the imposition of the 2015 rules and were easily remedied. IMO, both sides are hiding the football. This is about money. One side wants to make it cheaper (less profitable for ISPs) for consumers to access the internet. Cheaper access = more consumers online per hour = more dollars for the kingpin oligarchs at Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, etc. The other side wants the freedom to charge higher rates and/or provide lower quality service to those who do not pay premium prices. They hope to make a mint charging Facebook & Twitter junkies for access to their fix.

    Screw that! It’s too expensive already. But we should recognize the downside: if we squeeze ISPs, regulating their rates, companies will not invest the resources to extend access to remote customers and/or to improve current access (bandwidth) for everyone. We’ll suffer more outages/ service interruptions. They’ll be less incentive to get us back online pronto. As with big pharma, controlling the price of drugs is good in the short term, helping patients, but it kills off expensive R&D, meaning fewer new miracle drugs per year. Companies need an incentive to invest.

    From 2012 to 2014, before net neutrality, the number of Americans lacking fixed terrestrial broadband and mobile broadband fell by more than half—from 72.1 million to 34.5 million. That’s awesome. After the “neutrality” rules came into effect, the pace was nearly three times slower, with only 13.9 million new Americans getting access to both. That’s worrisome. Today, 93% of Americans have access to terrestrial broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps, up from 89% in 2014 and 81% in 2012. Nonetheless, 24 million Americans still lack fixed terrestrial broadband at speeds of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps. Companies need a strong profit incentive to extend service. Or, maybe we should legislate that 10% of what consumers pay ISPs must go to expanding access – at least until we link 98-99% of US households?

    One thing that’s beyond dispute & cannot be ignored: there’s a war against free expression online. Most of that is happening at the platform level, not the easily vilified ISPs. Facebook, Twitter, Google (including YouTube), and companies police free speech more than ever — eliminating, banning, harassing, demonetizing, and otherwise punishing “bad” actors. We need to regulate content platforms at least as much as we need to regulate service providers. If we enact rules preventing tech giants like Facebook from engaging in content discrimination & giving US consumers a private right of action when subject to censorship, I think congress could pass some really good regulation, replacing the 2015 regime with something more intelligent and more just. If big tech really cares about consumers, it’ll accept the compromise.

    My bet: With or without neutrality, access will slowly improve in terms of the speed of connection and the range of content, applications, and experiences. The advent of 5G and other technologies will add to the marketplace. Ike raises some good points, but I agree with Senator Thune: Regardless of neutrality rules, 5G = a net positive & worth the investment.


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