CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Next week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will meet to discuss several topics critical to life in the United States.
On the list, 5G service — the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks. Ajit Pai, Chairman of the FCC, joined NewsNation to discuss the rollout of 5G, cybersecurity and net neutrality.
Pai was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the commission in 2011. In 2017, President Donald Trump designated Pai as chairman of the commission. Now, more than halfway through his five-year term, Pai says he is focused on making sure all Americans have access to fast broadband technology.
“Many of your viewers, if they’re using a smartphone, are probably familiar with 4G LTE — 4G being the fourth generation of wireless connectivity. Well, 5G is the fifth generation and it promises speeds that are several times — up to 100 times faster — than 4G,” said Pai.
Meaning the time it takes for an individual to click a link on their phone and get a response from the network will be significantly shorter.
5G is designed to connect virtually everyone and everything together, including machines, objects, and devices. Some companies began deploying 5G globally in 2019 and the race is on to make it more broadly available.
Pai believes the United States is the leader of the 5G rollout— in terms of global assets.
“In terms of particular companies, I think a lot of them are participating in our spectrum auctions — all of the big names that you would know — including some that you might not expect, like cable companies for example, electric utilities and others. Everybody wants to lead in the 5G space and I think that’s a great thing for consumers to have that kind of competition.
And 5G is already being put to use in several areas including telehealth, remote learning, precision agriculture, self-driving cars, and even airport scanners.
But concerns remain about the security aspect of 5G.
“We want to make sure that we’re thinking about security right now,” said Pai. “And we’re doing that in a few ways. The FCC for example, has lead the way in prohibiting the use of FCC funding from being used on insecure equipment that comes from Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE. We’ve also worked with Congress to enable the funding to go to companies that have already installed problematic equipment and replace it with more trustworthy equipment.”
Access to broadband has been an issue for many Americans living in rural areas — in part — because the maps the FCC uses haven’t provided sufficient data. In October, Pai says the commission plans to hand out $20 billion to help expand access to those parts of the country that have been underserved in the past.
“There’s some 10.4 million Americans who will benefit from this particular rural digital opportunity fund option,” said Pai. “We’re working with Congress to get that funding. I would think it’s in everybody’s interest for us to be able to do that work.”