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President Trump this week nixed the $117 billion Broadcom buyout of San Diego-based Qualcomm, a major producer of cutting-edge 5G technology. The takeover, which likely would have resulted in Singapore-based Broadcom slashing investment in Qualcomm’s 5G innovation, was determined by President Trump to be a threat to U.S. national security.
While this move may protect America’s 5G advantage in the short-term, ensuring we are poised for prosperity far into the 21st century requires policymakers to develop plans now for expanding wireless connectivity and investing in digital infrastructure.
The investments made by past generations of leaders enabled the development of a world-class highway system, railways, airports and seaways have returned exponential benefit to local, state and national economies and enabled the U.S. to become an unmatched engine of productivity and a global economic superpower. But businesses across industries are rapidly transforming before our eyes as our workforce and economy increasingly adapts to the global digital revolution.
More and more employees are working remotely: more than 40 percent of workers say they now spend at least some time telecommuting. And the percentage of transactions taking place online or via mobile apps continues to skyrocket. The fact is, countless businesses are rapidly approaching a day when commerce will be almost entirely dependent on online connectivity.
That is why the new generation of state and local leaders must help ensure our future economic prosperity by working together in concert with the builders of wireless networks to streamline and expedite the deployment of digital infrastructure.
Cities must increasingly focus on investing in the information superhighway — the cornerstone of which will be a reliable 5G network that is designed to offer increased connectivity at higher speeds to as many people and businesses as possible.
Other countries have already recognized the revolutionary promise of this technology. For example, the EU and South Korea are working together on a 5G development project called 5GCHAMPION, which brings together 21 universities, research centers and companies from both countries. Without these investments, localities will be unable to meet the future demand of mobile internet users.
In America, private industry is leading the charge to expand 5G. Verizon, for example, is set to launch 5G residential broadband services in some communities this year, while AT&T recently announced plans to roll out 5G service to Dallas, Waco and Atlanta. In fact, service providers are expected to invest $275 billion in 5G infrastructure over the next seven years.
State and local lawmakers should work with these companies to meet America’s 5G infrastructure needs. City officials in Spokane, Washington, for example, are partnering with Verizon to install small cell antennas — which make 5G connectivity possible — on utility poles and street lamps. While just a first step, it illustrates how policymakers can work alongside the private sector to connect their communities to 5G.
By building public-private partnerships like this, lawmakers can ensure that taxpayer dollars are being used to invest in 5G technologies that could create 3 million jobs and result in more than $500 billion in GDP growth.
We must be forward thinking in our approach to connectivity, because our future prosperity and economic competitiveness in an increasingly digital and globalized world depend on it.
Commentary by Joe Rinzel, the executive director of Americans for a Modern Economy.
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