SAINE: Building on our legacy of innovation

Jason Saine speaks to reporters at the N.C. General Assembly
FILE: Jason Saine speaks to reporters at the N.C. General Assembly

Infrastructure has been the linchpin of the American economy over the last century. Under President Eisenhower, the United States made unprecedented investments in our roads, rails and ports, which accelerated America’s growth and influence in the world. A couple of decades later, President Reagan showed us that the best thing government can do is get out of the way and allow the private sector to invest and create jobs.

Since the turn of the 21st century, technology has fundamentally changed the way we work, live and play. It has opened doors of opportunity for people from Murphy to Manteo. As we move towards 2020, the opportunities before us are incredible. To get there, though, we must have robust and ubiquitous broadband infrastructure. Next-generation wireless networks offer the promise and potential to revolutionize internet connectivity.

Upgrading wireless networks to 5g technology will fundamentally change the way we use the internet. The ability to connect billions of devices will drive new innovation and efficiencies, transforming entire industry sectors, such as energy, health and public safety. Wireless powered autonomous vehicles could reduce travel times by nearly 40 percent and save an estimated 21,700 lives due to reduced accidents. Entirely new businesses and industries will be created based on the power and capabilities of next-generation wireless technology.

Unlike today’s wireless networks that connect people and devices through large cell towers, 5g networks require a massive deployment of small cell technology designed for speeds up to 100 times faster than today’s internet connections while supporting exponentially more devices. More than 250,000 small cells are expected to be installed over the next few years in the United States, nearly the number of traditional “macro” cell sites built over the last 30 years. The wireless industry has committed to funding billions of dollars in new investment to upgrade these networks. Unfortunately, these investments are being slowed by outdated regulations and rules, delays that we simply cannot afford as we face stiff overseas competition for investment and jobs.

According to a recent Accenture report, 5g wireless networks could create as many as three million jobs and boost U.S. GDP by nearly $500 billion over the next seven years. More specifically, North Carolina communities — from small towns to big cities — will realize significant economic benefits from investment in 5g networks.States across the country are moving quickly to ready themselves for the investment influx that 5G will bring. In fact, just within the past twelve months, ten states have passed legislation that will streamline and expedite the deployment of next generation wireless networks. I sponsored House Bill 310 to ensure that North Carolina remains a leader in the technology sector, helping to make certain we are ready to capitalize on the opportunities presented by next generation technologies.

House Bill 310 helps to remove barriers to efficient deployment of small wireless facilities by streamlining processes and imposing reasonable rates and fees. House Bill 310 allows providers the opportunity to deploy small cells responsibly by having reasonable access to existing local infrastructure within and outside of the public rights-of-way (ROW). The legislation clarifies that small wireless facilities on existing infrastructure is a “permitted use” and not subject to the type of review larger “macro” towers receive.Finally, it is important to note that House Bill 310 places no limitations on localities’ ability to deny permits based on building, safety or electrical codes or standards. There is no removal of localities’ jurisdiction in these areas.

As we strive to maintain our leadership position in a highly competitive global economy, it is helpful to remember the lessons that the aforementioned two great leaders taught us; investment in infrastructure is critical to excelling in a global economy and often the best course of action is for government to get out of the way so that those who have the capital and expertise can invest and help move the country (and our state) forward.

I’m proud to have sponsored House Bill 310, which as of last week became law. This law helps us build on the legacy of innovation in North Carolina and positions us to be leaders in the next technological revolution; without spending any taxpayer money. Capital tends to flow to places that are ready for investment and House Bill 310 sends the signal that North Carolina is ready for that investment.

Represenative Jason Saine represents the 97th North Carolina House District with encompasses Lincoln County.