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Close up of schoolgirl typing text message on cell phone at the desk in the classroom. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto / skynesher

Wireless technology is constantly evolving. Speeds are increasing, efficiency is improving, and new applications are emerging every day. The next generation in wireless technology, or 5G, will be the next leap forward.

What does this mean to the average consumer? The possibilities are limitless. Experts expect that, beyond cell phones and laptops, devices related to security, health care, traffic, agriculture, education and more will make up the growing “Internet of Things” (IoT) in the next few years. However, achieving this incredible future requires building the wireless infrastructure and highways.

This month, the Federal Communications Commission released a draft order to lay out the framework for 5G deployment. The order creates a fair and level playing field for wireless carriers to access infrastructure and establish a network of small cells across the country.

As it stands, there are limitations to wireless connectivity across the country. To push past these barriers and encourage investment, we must modernize our wireless infrastructure regulations. This is especially critical to meeting the needs of more remote communities, who will benefit considerably from 5G connections. Through the national deployment of small cells, increased broadband access will promote more affordable and reliable services for all. Passing the FCC order is a great start to reducing regulatory barriers and closing the digital divide.

Our current limitations to wireless connectivity similarly inhibit America’s economic growth. The deployment of 5G infrastructure will usher in the fourth Industrial Revolution, bringing with it a wave of investment and job creation.

Estimates say 5G will contribute to $500 billion in GDP and create 3 million jobs. This growth will not only affect the telecommunications industry but will have vast implications for innovation in health care, transportation, agriculture and education, among others. For example, 5G-enabled advances in remote monitoring systems, telemedicine connections and remote surgery are expected to save health-care consumers up to $305 billion, according to an estimate from Goldman-Sachs.

In transportation, 5G will allow for real-time transmittal of information. This will make vehicle-vehicle and vehicle-infrastructure communication possible, increasing the safety and efficiency of our roads and public transport. Imagine a future in which vehicle-vehicle connectivity allows cars to travel more closely together, also known as “platooning.” In this future, highway capacity increases significantly, leading to shorter commutes, fewer accidents and even the decongestion of urban populations. This future is possible with 5G.

America is eager for this future, but with 50 states, 3,000 counties and 20,000 incorporated places, upgrading the nation’s wireless infrastructure is a daunting task. 5G deployment requires planning, engineering, construction and operations — all currently contingent upon getting approvals of applications and permits from state and local governments. Without the FCC’s order, the application and permitting process will continue to vary from locality to locality, creating unnecessary red tape, costs and delays that hinder technology deployment, and ultimately, the U.S. economic future.

With the ever-expanding number of people who rely on wireless technology, the national imperative for economic stimulation, and the technological advances our country demands, innovators must be able to deploy 5G without red tape. The rollout of 5G services is already expected to take years and cost an estimated $275 billion in direct investment by wireless service providers. We shouldn’t have to wait — let’s get started now.

The FCC order will create a level playing field so that no place, urban or rural, gets left behind, and that all Americans can reap the benefits of next generation wireless.

Gerard Scimeca is vice president of Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market consumer advocacy organization. He wrote this for

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