The mobile phone market has evolved over the past two decades, transitioning from 1st generation to 5th generation technology. In the United States, there are an estimated 469 million wireless devices in use, with each person averaging 1.4 wireless devices, including smartphones, laptops, tablets, watches, and cars.
However, the widely marketed 5G technology has little to do with the actual benefits of wireless technology, particularly as a “mobile” service that caters to our hectic lifestyles. Its main purpose has been to eliminate both federal and state regulations and replace copper networks with more profitable, yet inferior, wireless services.
Telecom companies like Verizon have diverted their budget from wireline utilities to illegally support their wireless networks. Despite claims that wireless technology can replace fiber optic networks, there are differences between fixed and mobile wireless services. Companies like Verizon and AT&T often claim to offer 5G technology, but in reality, they are just offering older 4G-LTE services.
The aggressive promotion of 5G technology by FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has been influenced by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a non-profit organization that drafts model legislation to favor conservative public policy solutions. ALEC has actively lobbied for telecom industry interests, supporting deregulation and opposing net neutrality.
Through ALEC’s efforts, many states have adopted legislation to eliminate the “Carrier of Last Resort” (COLR) obligations, which require telecom companies to serve all customers, including extending facilities when necessary. Proponents argue that removing these obligations will lead to more investment in broadband infrastructure. However, concerns remain about the impact on universal access to broadband and whether this is simply a scheme to maximize telecom industry profits.
The United States ranks 32nd out of 38 OECD countries in terms of fiber deployment and falls behind in mobile and broadband speeds. Only 43 percent of American homes have access to fiber broadband services, compared to other countries with higher rates of access.
The truth behind 5G and the push for telecom deregulation raises questions about the responsibilities of the telecom industry and the impact on consumers.