BILLINGS, Mont. — Quiet mornings, busy days, fall harvest, and the changing seasons are just some of the reasons we enjoy making our living in rural America.
Though we enjoy plenty of perks in our rural setting, being a business owner serving Wyoming and Montana does come with its own challenges. Things like long-distance shipping costs and transport time factor into our business decisions—and those costs are often higher because that’s the reality of where we live.
It’s not unlike the companies investing in infrastructure and other resources to roll out the next generation of wireless networks, or 5G.
That beautiful landscape, with its large rolling fields and mountain peaks is not easy to build on. And our close-knit communities also means smaller pockets of people, spread out over many miles. That’s what makes it even more challenging to quickly build out the infrastructure needed to get 5G technology to those of us living in rural areas.
But we’ve been here before. In 2010, when 4G was being deployed throughout the United States, the same arguments were made that we’d be left behind and only urban residents would benefit from this new technology. It’s taken a little longer to get to us, but now 4G is in many rural areas and providers are still investing, bringing 4G to more than 1.5 million more rural Americans in the last five years.
If the cost of building wireless networks were lower back then and the time to deploy this infrastructure was faster, the case for serving rural areas would have improved—and that would have meant more wireless coverage in more small towns.
As 5G networks begin to be rolled out, that’s just what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing to do, with a vote later this month to help streamline wireless infrastructure deployment. This proposal will benefit communities like ours in a real, tangible way.
Recently, a study was done by Corning Incorporated that shows just how we can help improve the business case to help get 5G to all American communities. The FCC’s updates to state and local wireless infrastructure rules, according to Corning, could lead to an additional $2.4 billion in capital expenditure as deployment in more neighborhoods becomes economically possible, with 97 percent of that spending coming in suburban and rural areas.
Wireless technology, like 4G, has changed our lives, making us more efficient and productive. Drones, smart tablets in the field, and precision agriculture tools weren’t commonplace five years ago, but now we can’t imagine life without them. And we need to keep working to ensure all American communities have access to these resources that come with the connectivity of new wireless networks.
We’re even more excited to see what 5G will bring. The wireless industry is ready to invest $275 billion for 5G. I know that capital investment has a natural flow to areas where there’s a return on investment.
It’s been a while since we have talked about a moonshot…. America could use one – especially rural America. 5G is the moonshot that will take America to the next level and the FCC is on track to deliver. Let’s make it happen!
About the author: Chris Skorupa is the Owner & Manager of Beartooth Fertilizer Company. Beartooth Fertilizer provides fertilizer, seeding and pesticide application for residents in South Central Montana and Northern Wyoming. Chris is a member of the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association and serves as the Vice President of the Rural & Agriculture Council.
Beartooth Fertilizer Company