Those truths are more apparent than ever in the digital world. And over the last 20 years, we have seen a remarkable gulf in the wealth and the well-being between the haves who live in big metropolitan areas and the have-nots who live in rural America.
The concept of a digital divide is not new. For thirty years, even before the wide-scale adoption of the World Wide Web, policy makers, and social scientists have worried about the ramifications of lighting fast digital communications for one part of the country but slower speeds or no access for others.
The implications of the digital divide are already obvious. Faster internet means greater productivity, more economic growth, higher job satisfaction, more general happiness.
So the news that Ajit Pai, the FCC chairman and the leadership of T-Mobile and Sprint came up with an agreement to invest more resources into 5G deployment into rural America is welcomed indeed.
Here are the details of the agreement:
New T-Mobile will rapidly build a transformative 5G network with fiber-like speeds for hundreds of millions of Americans. The commitments include a detailed build schedule with hard deadlines for providing coverage and deploying 5G spectrum and sites and minimum speeds verified by nationwide drive tests. If the targets are not met, the company will make significant voluntary contributions to the FCC until the milestones are achieved and the network is fully deployed and performing to the targets.
Specifically, within three years, New T-Mobile commits to blanketing three-quarters of the country’s population with mid-band spectrum and covering 97% of Americans with low-band spectrum. This broad and deep network will offer two-thirds of Americans speeds in excess of 100 Mbps and average speeds of over 150 Mbps with peak speeds topping out at 1.6 Gbps. Within six years of the merger’s close, New T-Mobile commits to deploy a 5G network with low-band coverage of at least 99% of the population, mid-band coverage of at least 88% of the population, 99% of the population experiencing download speeds equal to, or greater than, 50 Mbps and 90% of the population experiencing download speeds equal to, or greater than, 100 Mbps. Average and peak speeds will have surged to 450 Mbps and 4.2 Gbps respectively.
New T-Mobile’s commitments will set a new standard for regulatory transparency, providing regular and robust information in annual reports regarding its progress in meeting its nationwide 5G, rural 5G, and in-home commitments. For New T-Mobile’s three-year and six-year commitment dates, the company will provide a comprehensive report that includes data from drive tests, population and household coverage figures, site lists, marketing figures, and executive certifications.
More specially, the New T-Mobile will accelerate and increase its plan to provide a competitive option for rural consumers through delivering access to greater capacity and faster speeds. Within three years of closing, it will deliver 50 Mbps or higher to two-thirds of the rural population and 100 Mbps or higher to over half the rural population. Within six years of the merger’s close, New T-Mobile will deploy a 5G network with low-band coverage of at least 90% of the rural population, mid-band coverage of at least 66.7% of the rural population, 90% of the rural population experiencing download speeds equal to, or greater, than 50 Mbps, and 66.7% of the rural population experiencing download speeds equal to, or greater than, 100 Mbps.
To quote Joe Biden, this is a big frickin deal. It’s good for Rural America, which means it is good for all of America.
John Feehery is President of Communications and Director of Government Affairs for Quinn Gillespie and Associates, Washington, D.C.’s top public affairs firm. He is also a frequent commentator on the political landscape, widely quoted around the country and often seen on such television programs as CNN’s The Situation Room, MSNBC’s Hardball, and Bloomberg Television’s Money and Politics. He is also a columnist for The Hill. His writing appears regularly on Political Storm.