Major legislation passed the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Monday that would accelerate investment in mobile broadband infrastructure and prepare the State of Tennessee for the next wave of economic development in the digital economy via 5G technology. Senate Bill 2504, sponsored by Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro), creates a uniform, statewide and predictable application and deployment process for small cell wireless broadband providers no matter what community is being served. Once implemented, it would enhance existing networks and encourage wireless broadband providers to invest in the latest small cell technology.
"We are all racing to build 5G networks that will transform our world," said Sen. Ketron. "This is an important bill to the six million business and residential wireless broadband consumers in Tennessee who expect robust connection to their wireless Internet devices to manage travel, communications, shopping, banking, health care, education and a host of other needs. When installed, these small cells will increase the capacity to handle the huge amounts of data that we're all driving to wireless networks, and do so with speeds 30 to 50 percent faster than the current 4G networks."
Ketron said the bill creates a predictable "how to manual" for providers and local governments to work together to manage the right-of-ways and to get investment deployed as soon as possible. While the legislation calls for a statewide application process to reduce local hurdles, it affirms that local governments retain their nondiscriminatory authority to:
- manage placement of utility poles and facilities in the right of way;
- establish aesthetic plans that govern facilities in the right of way;
- protect historic districts;
- manage and protect areas with underground utilities;
- require damage repair in the right of way;
- manage and reject any deployment based on public safety concerns; and,
- apply right of way permitting and fees.
The bill also encourages the use of government infrastructure, like light posts, so as to avoid the need for new poles.
"In many places, our wireless networks are at capacity," Ketron added. "The answer is not more big towers - it is small cells which can handle huge amounts of data. They can be attached to lampposts in communities to provide a much needed, targeted boost to capacity. This legislation will deliver the benefits of next generation 5G technology, creating thousands of jobs and growing our economy by billions."
Studies show that deployment of 5G alone will create more than 16,000 new jobs in Tennessee. It would also lead to more than $1 billion in investment and grow the state GDP by nearly $3 billion.
"5G technology is the secret sauce that will enable self-driving cars, digital healthcare and a better connected world," Ketron continued. "Among the many results will be smarter cities, more efficient energy grids and safer transportation."
Presently 14 other states have passed legislation to make investment easier, with 19 considering similar legislation this year.
The bill now goes to the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee for consideration.