should be read in its entirety for an appreciation of all of the panelists' comments. Nevertheless, in the meantime, immediately below are selected excerpts of the presentations which provide an indication of the panelists' perspectives on broadband deployment and broadband adoption, universal service, infrastructure deployment, spectrum, and more.
If you would like to view a video of the All-Star Panel I presentation, it is
[T]he leaders of our industry were very excited at CES to announce their vision of the next evolution of the cable network infrastructure to be a 10G network, one that would provide 10 gigabit connections and really not just focus on speed but also lower latency, improved reliability, stronger WiFi, and really trying to chart a future that they will play a part in building. But ultimately, it will be up to consumers and application developers and new services that we can only sit here and dream of that will both inspire Americans but also serve as the foundation for economic growth and leadership in the technological age.
[W]hether you're talking about 5G, whether you're talking about cable's next generation infrastructure, all of our companies operate in environments where greater certainty around the rules of the road benefits our ability to deploy capital in new infrastructure and to extend it as far and as wide as the economics will bear. So I think that is the general theme or rubric that any legislation that Congress may pick up really needs to be judged by.
There probably also needs to be some relook or reexamination of the process by which cable infrastructure is deployed and the interface between industry and state and local governments and Title VI. The fact of the matter is we have a very different regime in Title VI than we have for wireless carriers… [A]ll of our infrastructures are starting to look very similar. The wireless guys have a very big interest in wired connections to towers. Cable operators have a very important interest not only in the wireless drop in your home via WiFi or increasingly in 5G and next generation wireless standards. So that type of hybrid architecture really creates more similarity than there is difference.
[O]ne of the things Congress did very well previously is to recognize that any future approach to spectrum really has to have balance between its focus, not only on licensed frequencies but also in expanding access to unlicensed spectrum as well. There are some areas where we believe action could be taken to expand WiFi. We're going to need wider channels in order to support all the next generation investment that's being made and faster speeds. And certainly, Congress can help speed that along.
In keeping with the Commission's rightful attention on deployment obstacles, the 621 proceeding on remand from the court has been a long-running controversy. And we are hopeful that we can reaffirm the basic structure of Title VI, whereby we would remove impediments to getting franchise renewals or getting franchises. Congress pretty clearly set forth in the statute the compensation that was going to be provided for the franchise and we get into this situation where creative localities come up with different ways of imposing taxes or fees on consumer bills or asking for different kinds of in-kind support that are off-the-book costs that only slow down the process for getting franchise renewals and deploying capital to build better infrastructure. So some reaffirmation of that by the FCC is not only due but overdue, in our opinion. And it probably also tees up a broader reexamination of franchising generally.
Congress and policymakers have started to pay a lot more attention to making sure when they are subsidizing the deployment of broadband that they are not subsidizing the building of broadband networks in places where it already exists....And it is not the responsibility of those programs to subsidize competition. So the advances that we've seen in the Farm Bill, and also with the CAF II auction, really need to be hardwired into policymakers' thoughts as we think about additional subsidy programs going forward.
With respect to electricity co-ops, the one glaring issue that really needs congressional action in addressing is the fact that they still have an exemption from the pole attachment regime.... Back at the time the exemption was created, the thought was that pole attachment rates charged by municipal providers or co-ops were very low and that there were going to be incentives that they would stay low. And we have seen in actual practice that flipped on its head. It is hard for me to imagine a Congress and an FCC allowing co-ops to enter the business of broadband and being able to charge super-competitive rates for pole attachments that are different from the federal framework. So if co-ops are going to go into that business, that exemption needs to go.
On the wireless side, Latinos and African Americans led the smartphone revolution. And I think that wasn't something that was expected on the industry side. But now it's something that's commonly known and we believe that innovation drives opportunities. So to the extent that we can lower prices, to the extent that we can get greater deployment, then that helps to bridge the digital divide.
We also caution state and local governments not to try to game the system and use infrastructure build-out opportunities as a way to get money to fund things that don't have anything to do with that, because we think that that harms adoption.
[T]he overarching principles really have to do with just having common sense… We don't think that cities should game the system, but we think that there are opportunities for a city and industry to come together and work out what makes sense. Keep in mind that the costs that you add on deployment ultimately get paid by the consumer. And the consumers that we advocate for are generally the least able to assume those costs.
MMTC is in partnership with WIA and the National Urban League under a U.S. Department of Labor apprenticeship program… [T]hat program is entering the third year. As of the end of 2018, which was the second year, we had over 600 new either apprenticeships or pre-apprenticeships in telecommunications, towers, WiFi, those kinds of jobs, really good-paying jobs with career paths....And then WIA had, in addition, over 1,700 conversions of regular employees to an apprenticeship model, which is a career track model. We worked with Charter Communications, as well. They also have a very robust apprenticeship program. When policy comes together with workforce, we can really do all the things that we want to accomplish in terms of upscaling the American workforce.
We are very opposed to the FCC's proposal to limit Lifeline support to facilities-based carriers. We feel as if the resellers have really done a good job of filling in on Lifeline, where some of the facilities-based carriers have not been able to. What I'm learning is that the resellers and the facilities-based carriers actually have worked together to fill in these gaps in Lifeline.
Only 50 percent of the people who are eligible for Lifeline are using it. So we have weighed in on that and believe that there shouldn't be a self-enforcing budget cap. We should actually work to promote more Lifeline and reach out to the people who need it who don't know about it.
The 5G really is the most transformational standard potentially in the history of technology. It's going to create enormous economic activity, not just for our sector but for every sector of the economy, with $275 billion in investment that the industry is planning to make, creating 3 million jobs and half a billion additional incremental activity in the economy. It's not just that it's faster and you get more data, but that it's able to connect 100 times more devices and it will be five to 10 times more responsive in terms of latency, which opens up entirely new applications, potentially creating whole new industries.
5G is only as good as the infrastructure on which it's deployed. I like to think about 5G as having three legs of the stool. If you want to succeed and get the policy right, you need to have the right spectrum policy… And we are making progress on getting as much spectrum as fast as we can. The other aspect that we focus on a lot is siting policy, making sure that we are encouraging investment in terms of the ability to deploy infrastructure. And the third leg of the stool… is workforce. We need the skills training and we need the skilled workforce that is capable of building this advanced network in very short order.
On spectrum, obviously, the Congress took action last year in the RAY BAUM'S Act, and the FCC and NTIA have identified a substantial amount of high frequency. We also need mid-band frequencies to create these dense networks. We need all of these different frequencies. And it is not just going to happen at high frequencies. The misnomer of 5G is it's a super-high-frequency network. It's going to be on every frequency, it is going to be on every form of infrastructure from towers to small cells and DAS. So, in order to get that done, we have to have the siting policy right. In fact, it has taken us 30 years to get 200,000 towers up. And we are going to have to, in very short order, get 800,000 small cells built. If we are going to locate an additional 800K small cells by 2026, it is going to take a lot of effort. And I think we are getting the policy right.
Congress enacted Section 6409, which allows colocation by right and the FCC wisely applied that to small cells as well as to macro facilities. And some localities are really abusing it. [T]hey are throwing up all kinds of obstacles. The FCC could clarify that Section 6409 has to be complied with, in identifying some of the specific abuses that we're seeing in localities.
Another area of concern is what we call "compound expansion." As we get ready for 5G, we're going to use these sites for the edge data computing. It may be at the tower site, and there are going to be hubs for small cells. Sometimes, that requires an expansion of the compound. But we have this anachronism where, if you want to drop and swap a tower, you can expand a compound by 30 feet in any direction. But if you want to add an edge data center, you want to put in a generator for public safety, or you want to put in a FirstNet deployment, you have to go through NEPA and NHPA for even a one-foot expansion. We're seeing a bunch of FirstNet deployments getting held up because they need to expand the compound a little bit to accommodate the equipment. If they were dropping and swapping, they could do it by 30 feet. So it's really an obstacle that could fairly easily be clarified by the FCC, consistent with previous policy to make sure that we can quickly upgrade these networks to 5G.
[I]t's really important to get competition policy right in this environment. And I love being on a panel with the cable folks because I feel like, right now, we are at a crossroads. There is definitely convergence going on between cable and wireless, if you haven't noticed. So the industry is changing. It's evolving. Who we are competing with is evolving.
[F]or T-Mobile and I think all the wireless carriers, we're trying to work very constructively with state and local folks on deployment, especially now as we're looking to change up with small cell technology. There's a big difference between smaller cells and the big towers that people are used to. And, with 5G, it is going to be everywhere. So it's important that localities literally buy into the 5G deployment story. Because it's going to benefit their local economies and the like.
Time and money are always obstacles with deployment. I think some of the jurisdictions really don't want to abide by a shot clock. About a third of T-Mobile's deployments are tied up by noncompliance with at least the FCC's shot clock, which is in litigation right now. But also, money is a big factor. A lot of localities look at wireless deployment as something they can derive a lot of money from and that's also an obstacle. So it's important for the localities to understand the benefits that are going to come to them from 5G. And the industry maybe has to do a better job of explaining that.
The MOBILE NOW Act was a great piece of legislation calling for additional spectrum. It also called for some reforms in deployment on federal lands and the like. So I do think it's important for Congress to look at that and see where there may be opportunities. There could be an opportunity in the C-band, for example, for an auction. We've been advocating for an incentive auction there. We would like to see some of that spectrum brought to market. There is some spectrum that's out there that hasn't been built out by a company called Dish. I'd like to see that spectrum come to market. We're at a time where every megahertz matters and we shouldn't have spectrum sitting on the sidelines. So there may be some opportunities there, too, to make some spectrum available.
I would be remiss if I didn't advocate for our merger with Sprint right now. Because the combination of our two spectrum portfolios, our low-band spectrum, their strong mid-band spectrum and future high-band spectrum is definitely going to make for a powerhouse in the market, just at a critical time when we're moving to 5G. So it's all about coverage, it's about the breadth and depth that we'll be able to bring with that spectrum portfolio which, like I said, is going to make us a powerhouse competitor going forward.
A PDF of the complete panel transcript is