Rise of 5G Lessens the Case for Net Neutrality
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Verizon will begin offering its 5G Home service in select major cities in October, putting more nails in the net neutrality coffin and also potentially lowering the cries for taxpayer-funded municipal broadband.

Residents of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento can now sign up for 5G Home, which will offer wireless speeds of 1 gigabit per second to those customers. That’s 40 times the minimum broadband speed of 25 megabits per second, as defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Not only is it fast, but it also doesn’t require fiber — at least for the “last mile” to the home. Instead, 5G will relay wireless signals to the recipient via small cells installed on utility poles, buildings and other structures. It’s those small cells that will eventually allow broadband internet to reach previously unreachable rural areas. This could mute the calls for government to step in and use taxpayer money to extend fiber to areas that private providers wouldn’t because of the prohibitive cost involved. This is a major step forward in closing the digital divide without taxpayer dollars.

More immediately, 5G will be offered in the major cities and it should quickly aid consumer choice. It’s not just Verizon leading the charge — several other providers plan to roll out some form of 5G soon. AT&T also plans to launch this year and a combined T-Mobile-Sprint may blow the doors off their competitors with 5G speeds reaching 4 gbps in the coming years.

The American Spectator previously pointed out that the proposed merger of Sprint and T-Mobile is one of these cases where consumers could actually benefit from company consolidation, as the two wireless carriers use their collective strengths to build a unified 5G network.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, in remarks at Mobile World Congress America’s “Local Leadership and the Race to 5G” conference in Los Angeles on September 13, noted that since Indiana enacted its siting reform last year, wireless providers in the state have installed more than 1,000 small cells in more than 30 communities as they get ready for 5G.

“The private sector, not the government, is planning to invest more than a quarter-trillion dollars to densify their networks with new small cells, which are the building blocks of 5G,” Carr said. “That represents a massive investment in America’s infrastructure and jobs, without a penny of new taxes.”

 Investor’s Business Daily argues that Verizon’s move “obliterates the case for net-neutrality regulations.”

Amazon, Facebook, and Google argue that home broadband is a monopoly because many people in outlying areas only have access to one provider. (Note that their argument does not account for satellite internet, which is available almost anywhere.)

An August filing by those and other parties with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia claims that the market cannot control the conduct of internet service providers (ISPs) because customers aren’t able to switch services due to a lack of providers. This is part of their argument for “net neutrality” regulations and their support for the Congressional Review Act pushed by Democrats in Congress to reinstate the FCC’s previous Title II regulations for ISPs.

That cabal argues in its filing that customers “must either accept their ISPs’ disclosed traffic management practices or go without internet access” so they want the government to step in to curb the practices. That argument is focused on a lack of competition, but 5G will help increase the level of competition, allowing the market, rather than the government, to solve the perceived problem.

Tom Struble, technology policy manager and counsel for R Street Institute, agrees that the advancement of 5G “definitely undercuts strongly” the left’s arguments for net neutrality.

“It really will be destroyed once we get 5G, fixed wireless and satellite internet up and running,” he said.

The advancement of 5G by wireless carriers is only the latest competitive move that sees cable, satellite, and wireless providers constantly go after each other’s markets, which is why Struble thinks the monopoly argument rings hollow. Consumers can also mix and match, he notes, using cable or satellite to stream video if they have a slow internet connection.

“It’s a static and warped view of the actual market,” he said of claims of a monopoly.

Struble points out, as well, that the merger of mobile and fixed broadband will likely benefit consumers, many of whom now pay for home internet as they also pay data plans on their mobile phones.

“Why pay two people when you can just pay one?” he asked.

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