By Sen. John Thune
The United States has experienced numerous technological revolutions throughout its relatively short history that have been so monumental that life as Americans knew it would never be the same. Henry Ford made automobiles and the assembly line a reality. Scientists helped American astronauts take “one giant leap for mankind.” And U.S. innovators and academics played a pivotal role in making the internet as integral to our day-to-day lives as it is today.
It was Americans’ desire to ask “what’s next?” that led to each of these technological revolutions in the past, and it’s already leading to those of the future. An easy example of this is the evolution in how we’ve consumed media over the last century and the technology that has allowed us to do it. We had books and newspapers, then radio and television, then color television, then VHS and VCRs, then DVDs and Blu-ray, and now with a few quick clicks, you can watch a movie from a wireless tablet on a chair in your backyard or on an internet-connected airplane at 30,000 feet.
When it comes to mobile broadband technology, in particular, of which media consumption is only one small part, I believe American innovators and entrepreneurs are at the doorstep of another “what’s next?” moment. I’m hopeful that lawmakers in Washington can help these new American pioneers cross the finish line faster and more efficiently, because if we don’t win this race, another country will.
In early 2016, I introduced the Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless (MOBILE NOW) Act, bipartisan legislation that would lay critical groundwork for the next generation in wireless broadband technology. At the time, I said the MOBILE NOW Act would be our passport to a 5G future of gigabit wireless connectivity, and I believe it now more than ever.
While the Senate Commerce Committee, which I chair, easily approved this common-sense legislation a few months later, it unfortunately didn’t make it to the Senate floor before the end of the year. We were close, though, which is why I reintroduced the bill on the very first day of the 115th Congress in 2017. Our hard work and persistence paid off. The committee passed it again, and, as part of a larger legislative package, so did the full House and Senate. Our multi-year effort culminated with the president recently signing it into law.
Now that it’s the law of the land, I hope we can move quickly to cut unnecessary and overly burdensome red tape so U.S. innovators can continue to move the ball down the field. By deploying newer, modernized infrastructure, like small cell technology, and making more of it available for broadband, including inefficiently used government spectrum, the airwaves over which mobile communications travel, we can achieve these goals.
My hope is that as this new technological revolution continues to take shape, states like South Dakota can play a leading role in making it a reality. Some might say, “why South Dakota?” And to them, I say, why not? It’s within reach.