Today, FBA President and CEO Lisa Youngers testified in front of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation about the importance of 5G. The hearing, titled “The 5G Workforce and Obstacles to Broadband Development,” was a chance for members of congress to discuss 5G, its impact on the economy and what barriers--including finding skilled workers--impede development.
“As you know, fiber is the fundamental network technology for the 21st Century providing the needed underlying infrastructure for 5G, but for wireless networks, smart communities, smart grids, as well as the Internet of Things applications, while also providing direct connections to homes, businesses, and anchor institutions,” Youngers told the committee.
The hearing aimed to examine the skill and training needed among the telecommunications workforce to deploy 5G networks and regulatory barriers affecting the work to bridge the digital divide. Committee Chairman Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said 5G promises to create 3 million new jobs and generate $275 billion in new investments. With that in mind, he said it's imperative the government looks at ways to encourage smart growth for 5G and in turn, fiber.
"As our country moves quickly toward a full-scale deployment of 5G, increasing commercial access to mid-band spectrum, and removing barriers to infrastructure investment will be essential to winning the global race in this technology," he said.
Youngers testified on behalf of the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA), pointing out the importance of government investments in fiber deployment and access issues. While she acknowledged how far the U.S. has come in modernizing its infrastructure through 5G and fiber, she said there are too many barriers that significantly impact fiber networks.
“There are still too many barriers that delay and even halt all-fiber deployments,” she testified. “This not only harms consumers, but jeopardizes our international competitiveness.”
Some of the key issues include addressing labor and job training issues, access to pole attachments and railroad easements to lay fiber, and state and local right-of-way applications.
She also addressed how legislation can positively and negatively affect fiber deployment. She praised states that have enacted legislation to allow electric cooperatives to build fiber networks while guarding against harm to electric ratepayers and to broadband competition, and questioned why some states are blocking access.
“Although FBA strongly supports private sector providers driving all-fiber builds, we are troubled by the continuing barriers many states have erected to municipal provision of broadband service,” she said. “That is why we support government subsidy programs, and that is why municipal entry, when driven by the local community, should be permitted.”
Committee Ranking Member Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) thanked Youngers, as well as the other witnesses at the hearing. She said fiber and 5G are the future, and if the U.S. wants to stay competitive, we must focus on how to make smart investments in these networks.
“These networks will carry great benefits and economic returns to communities,” Cantwell said. “That’s why major nations are making investments in network infrastructure and having a 5G workforce.”
To read Youngers full testimony—and to view a recording of the hearing—please visit the committee’s website.