San Jose files lawsuit against FCC’s speeding broadband deployment order
The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) successful passing of an order to speed up 5G network deployment throughout the United States in September has not been as well received by some cities as the organization might have thought it would be.
The order will require cities to quickly approve or deny a wireless carriers’ request to deploy 5G cell installations. While many are in favor of 5G being deployed as quickly as possible, FCC’s way of going about it has not come without criticism. As an example, San Jose recently filed a lawsuit against the FCC’s order along with 20 other cities, while the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties have also come out against the order, writes San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo’s Chief Innovation Officer Shireen Santosham.
The reason? The FCC’s order provides a nearly $2 billion taxpayer-funded subsidy to corporate interests, but there’s no requirement to provide affordable broadband access to rural and low-income communities in the U.S.
Santosham served as a representative on the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee on behalf of Mayor Liccardo, before his office resigned the seat because it felt the FCC was favoring big telecom.
“No doubt, a 5G rollout is essential to the economic competitiveness of the country,” Santosham wrote. “It can bring immense benefits and serve as a key component of building our digital future. However, we must do it equitably for fear of leaving over 34 million low income and rural Americans in the digital desert, with no access to the broadband they’ll need to survive—and thrive—in a 21st century economy.”
Understanding the benefits 5G and technology as a whole could bring to the economy, Mayor Liccardo’s office started to create partnerships in the wireless industry and secured the largest broadband investment in small cells. According to Santosham, the partnerships formed would speed 5G deployment like the FCC wanted, but also secure millions of dollars for nearly 100,000 lower income San Jose residents.
The San Jose mayor’s office works with high-tech companies on self-driving vehicles, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, artificial intelligence and fixed wireless technology to lower fiber network deployment costs—technologies that could all benefit from 5G. It also partners with companies like Facebook and Airbnb to help them use their city to test and enable next generation technologies in order to make life better for its residents.
Despite working with such high profile businesses, the mayor’s office recognizes new technologies have to reach all corners of its community. Santosham wrote her team conducted a study with Stanford University that revealed more than half of San Jose’s low-income population had no Internet access at home. Lack of home Internet access could hinder a student’s ability to complete homework assignments and develop the skills needed to compete for Silicon Valley jobs.
In order to bridge the “digital divide”, the mayor’s office has formed corporate broadband partnerships where companies can contribute to a “Digital Inclusion Fund” which will pay for connectivity, devices, coding camps, and digital skills training for children living in low-income and typically underserved communities. The fund will also invest in fiber and deploy thousands of small cells to, “usher in the 5G revolution.” AT&T is among the companies that have invested in the model.
“The 5G revolution is on our doorstep, and our residents need solutions to close the digital divide now if we want to give everyone a fair shake,” Santosham wrote. “In the end, how we will be measured is not by the stock price of big telecom firms, but in whether we created opportunities for the millions of rural and urban Americans who have been left behind.”