Will 5G deepen the digital divide?

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It’s no secret that America’s low-income and low-population communities trail urban areas when it comes to broadband access. Government and industry must ensure that gap doesn’t expand when 5G becomes operational, public- and private-sector officials said in a House Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing Nov. 16. Today, most electronic devices connect to the internet, and some of those items, like connected vehicles, will be creating significant amounts of data that needs to be processed quickly. Tomorrow's internet requires a faster and more robust network the 4G wireless that connects us now. 5G technology promises to bring the low latency and high reliability required by the internet of things, telemedicine and other applications, according to Chris Pearson, the president of 5G Americas, whose members include AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and other telecom companies. Pearson cited societal benefits from 5G applications, such as remote surgery and robotic care for shut-ins or the elderly. "Hearing or visually impaired citizens will be more mobile through the use of self-driving cars and smart, safer homes,” he said. But Shireen Santosham, the chief innovation officer for San Jose (CA), said cities must have a say in where infrastructure is placed, otherwise industry will ignore areas -- largely lower income and lower population areas -- where it is less economically beneficial for them to build. San Jose has been pushing a more digital future with a connected vehicle pilot and is excited about 5G, but Santosham doesn’t want the city to repeat its past mistakes.


Will 5G deepen the digital divide?