By Bill Sisson
President and CEO, Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce
Large new economic sectors in the U.S. rely more and more on wireless connectivity. From the Internet of Things (IoT) to growing data and wireless subscribers, wireless technology has become necessary infrastructure for economic development. The rise of this country’s economy over the past two decades can be tied directly to advancing technology fueled by wireless connectivity. In recent years, we have seen an explosion in the amount of data generated by humanity. Now, smartphones have the ability to not only provide voice and text services, but also harness data to connect to nearly anything a consumer may want or need. The number of Americans reliant on wireless data has advanced at an alarming rate and shows no sign of slowing down.
At the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, our mission is to advocate for business needs to promote the region’s continued economic prosperity. As businesses and individuals continue to depend on wireless technology, the need for continued updates to the infrastructure that supports our technology becomes ever more apparent. This is important in our cities in Alabama but also in our rural areas. And, one way we can ensure our wireless infrastructure remains competitive with the rest of the country is through the deployment of small cells.
Due to this surging reliance on wireless technology, state legislators have begun addressing the need to modernize and improve our wireless infrastructure. More than half of the states in the U.S. have already passed legislation that supports wireless infrastructure reforms and removes barriers to wireless infrastructure deployment. In Alabama, a special committee was recently established to study this issue and recommend legislation for consideration during the 2020 regular session. This is a huge step in the right direction and will pave the way for our state to streamline and standardize the permitting process for small cell wireless equipment and services. It will also allow wireless companies limited access to public Rights of Way for the deployment of small cells and will establish permit fee structures for localities, while allowing them to recover reasonable costs while encouraging broadband investment.
The importance of small cell deployment cannot be overemphasized. It will help lead to faster download speeds and better connections. And, ultimately, small cells will support new technologies, including 5G service and “smart cities” which can catapult Alabama forward. The Mobile region is home to an emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem, with more than 150 technology companies employing thousands of tech workers. Working with our public and private partners, the Mobile Area Chamber’s primary work is to continue to foster this tech development and create new, high-paying jobs. In order for our economy to continue to flourish and not fall behind the progress being made in other states, it is critical we remove barriers to wireless deployment.
Streamlining wireless deployment will give local businesses access to new opportunities for growth and give consumers the ability to better connect to the people and services they depend on. In order to secure our future, we must adapt to the changing times, or we risk falling behind as other states move forward.
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