5G Wireless Networks: Who Should Set the Rules?

5G Wireless Networks: Who Should Set the Rules?

The FCC recently passed regulations that would make the deployment of 5G Wireless technology subject to national rules. Under those rules, local cities and townships would be restricted in the amount of fees that they could charge private wireless providers to use municipal assets and infrastructure. The rationale behind this policy is to ensure that 5G wireless technology is quickly deployed nationally in both prosperous as well as economically disadvantaged regions and locales. As more public services are increasingly provided electronically, ensuring basic digital access to government will be critical.

While expanding access to 5G wireless technology is a worthy goal, many local cities have countered that the federal government should not be restricting cities from setting the terms, conditions and pricing for wireless providers to use public infrastructure.

Technological innovation can do many things, but apparently cannot resolve traditional political and economic issues. Under our federal constitution we have 50 states that comprise a federal union. Each of those States has its own laws which are sometimes preempted by federal law. Something similar happens between state and local policy as well. States maybe a sovereign within a union of 50 states, but the same cannot be said of cities and towns within a state. Cities and counties are subdivisions of the state itself.

While there is a tension between the federal government and state government over laws that should apply, similar tensions exist between state and local municipalities. The turf war over regulating 5G Wireless technology regulation reminds us that there will be questions about who best should govern, national, state or municipal governments, even when dealing with 21st century technology issues.

As technology is deployed, who is in the best position of setting policy? In our upcoming Smart Cities and Liberty panel on November 28th in Dallas, Texas, we will ask a panel of technology and policy experts about these and other questions.

Doug McCullough – Lone Star Policy Institute, Director

Photo credit: Teoh Chin Leong