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Editorial | Island Voices

Future of isles’ wireless technology lies in speedy, reliable 5G networks

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The future of Hawaii depends on 5G wireless broadband. This next-generation of wireless networks will be super-fast and have remarkably low latency, propelling the state into a world of new possibilities: automated transportation, advanced agriculture and health care, and much more. But, to experience the benefits of 5G, lawmakers in Honolulu must do their part and pass legislation (like House Bill 2651 SD1) that will make it easier for wireless companies to deploy new technologies that can deliver better wireless coverage.

On a national level, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is working to better position the U.S. to win the global race to 5G. Last month, the FCC voted to approve an order to streamline rules pertaining to the deployment of new wireless infrastructure — but federal action is not enough. States across the country are re-examining their laws and making updates where needed to attract the significant economic and social benefits 5G technology will bring. If Hawaii fails to modernize its laws, the state stands to miss out on a huge opportunity.

Research confirms this. With 5G deployment, Hawaii could see an additional $1.25 billion in investments, along with more than 1,800 new jobs each year. That’s not all; it is estimated that Hawaii could see $5.7 billion in consumer benefits.

5G will also create a noticeably different user experience. With speeds at least 10-times faster than what we have today and near instantaneous responsiveness, 5G will open the doors to better and more revolutionary services and capabilities. For example, a patient in Hawaii needing specialized surgery could receive real-time care from a doctor in Chicago — without leaving the island. Visitors can stay better connected with loved ones and colleagues — even monitor the security of their home — all from the palm of their hand on one our luxurious beaches.

To deliver these benefits, new infrastructure, in the form of small cells, is needed support next-generation networks. This new technology, which is discrete by design, packs a powerful punch by adding critical capacity to existing networks, while laying the foundation for 5G. That means wireless customers will start seeing benefits now and into the future.

Unfortunately, deploying small cell technology in a timely and efficient manner here in Hawaii is practically nonexistent. Cumbersome and costly rules prevent widespread deployment and signal to wireless companies that their innovations and investment are not welcome here. This is why the Legislature should advance Senate Bill 2704. Passing Senate Bill 2704 will make the state’s policy environment more conducive to new wireless investment and an improved quality of life.

Soon, the world will be running on 5G, but Hawaii’s wireless future isn’t so certain. To keep pace, policy changes must be enacted this year.

Steve Pociask is president and CEO of the American Consumer Institute.

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