Closing the Digital Divide

Little boy browsing internet on laptop. Black African ethnicity kid using computer at home

5G technology isn't the answer to the “Digital Divide.” Here’s why.

In state after state, the wireless industry is seeking to fast-track approvals for its powerful new “small cell” antenna installations required for the deployment of new 5G technology, but many communities are pushing back by adopting strict zoning codes. So now the wireless industry is trying to prevent local governments from controlling the deployment of 5G antennas. To get political support for this effort, the wireless industry is claiming that the new 5G technology is needed to close the digital divide. That's completely untrue.. 

The digital divide was created in the 1990s when the telephone companies – parents of today's wireless companies – neglected to fulfill their promise to connect every telephone customer with fiber-optic cable. Apparently they realized they could make a lot more money with their new unregulated wireless business. After all, if they gave their telephone customers access to the internet with super fast, reliable and low-cost fiber-optic cable, who would want their slower, less reliable and much more expensive wireless service?

So they stopped connecting customers with fiber-optic cable (they had started with the most affluent customers first), leaving many minority and rural communities with only dial-up service, which was eventually discontinued. Those communities remain unconnected due to redlining by wireless industry. 

Let's be clear: the real purpose of the new 5G wireless antennas is to allow the wireless companies to get into the highly lucrative video streaming business and compete with cable companies without having to run a physical cable into peoples’ homes or apartments.  

African girl typing and navigating on laptop outdoors..jpg

The deployment of 5G has nothing to do with on-line education or improving access to the internet for low income and rural customers. This is about getting federal help (from the FCC) to limit local regulations, and getting federal funding to open up new markets for the telecoms.

 

Wireless is an inferior technology, and will saddle low income customers with high monthly fees in addition to the need for new 5G-enabled equipment. Low introductory rates for wireless service should not fool anyone: in an unregulated market, wireless companies can change prices anytime they want. Pretending that wireless will magically close the digital divide is a cruel and specious claim. 

The way to close the digital divide is with federal funding for a superior technology that is faster, more reliable, more affordable, less prone to hacking and is 100% safe for everyone. It’s fiber-optic to and through the premises, or “FTTP.” Community-owned fiber is the best possible solution. A lot of the infrastructure is already in place, thanks to the telephone customers who paid for it every month, year after year. 

Don't let anyone tell you that 5G is the answer to the digital divide. The people saying that are the same people who created the digital divide, and who hope to make a killing on 5G.