US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: The Future is Within Our Reach

The Future is Within Our Reach
By Sen. John Thune

The 24-hour cable news cycle is typically dominated by front burner issues of the day – everything from the latest news in Washington to updates about events or instability in other parts of the world. Many of these stories rightfully deserve the American people’s attention, but whether it’s a national cable network or a small town newspaper, there’s never enough time in the day or space on the page to cover every single story.

One story that isn’t likely to generate a breaking news alert or land above the fold is the good work happening behind the scenes in our Senate committees. I’ve always believed that Congress can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can focus on the big picture issues of the day while keeping our nose to the grindstone on other priorities. For the last several years, that’s been my goal as chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

This year alone, the committee has sent nearly forty bills, almost all of them bipartisan, to the full Senate. More than a quarter of those bills made it to the House, and we’ve already had a handful signed into law. In early August, the Senate passed a half dozen committee-approved technology and telecommunications bills that are now one step closer to becoming law. Among them was my MOBILE NOW Act, which would help lay some important groundwork for next-generation gigabit wireless broadband services throughout the country.

If you grew up in the ‘80s or ‘90s or are interested in film and television, you’re probably familiar with Hollywood’s take on the future, which at the time only seemed possible on the big screen. Dick Tracy had a two-way radio wrist watch, Marty McFly had self-tying shoes, a smart jacket, and a hoverboard, and Elroy Jetson had, well, every kind of toy or gadget a young kid could imagine. While some of Hollywood’s futuristic portrayals have since become reality, thanks in large part to the explosive growth of wireless broadband technology, America’s innovators and entrepreneurs have the capability and desire to do so much more. That’s one of the main reasons why I introduced the MOBILE NOW Act.

My bill would help get the government out of innovators’ way by cutting red tape and ensuring more spectrum (the airwaves that help make today’s wireless technology possible) is made available to folks in the private sector. The government currently controls a large portion of underutilized spectrum, so my bill sets a realistic timeline for transferring a significant amount of it to the commercial sector for innovators and entrepreneurs to use. My bill would also accelerate and streamline the process for the creation of physical infrastructure projects, like antennas and towers, which will be required for next-generation gigabit wireless broadband services, like 5G, for example.

Think about all of the technological advancements that have occurred just in your lifetime. Now imagine what could be accomplished in the next 10 or 20 years if innovators had the tools and opportunities to take the next step, free from unnecessary government obstacles and red tape. I’m excited for what’s to come, and I hope I can help South Dakota be a pioneer in this upcoming digital revolution.

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