The Nebraska Legislature has done something remarkable. This month, our senators came together with the telecom businesses, the cable industry and the League of Nebraska Municipalities to forge a compromise and pass LB184.
The bill, introduced by Henderson Sen. Curt Friesen, will allow for the development of small cells and push Nebraska into the future. This is major progress from last year when a similar bill was defeated after disagreements between our cities and telecommunications providers. This time around, senators came together and wrote a bill to which everyone could agree.
Small cells, for Nebraskans who might be unfamiliar, are unobtrusive antennas that can be installed on municipal poles and buildings. They complement cell towers to bolster the cellular network on which we all rely by adding capacity to a tower’s service area.
With the passage of LB184, the small cell permit approval process will be streamlined, connecting you and your family to the digital world more quickly. This is a leap not only into Nebraska’s technological future, but America’s, too.
Across the globe, competitors are racing to be the first to deploy nationwide 5G, the next generation of connectivity. Small cells can help Nebraska transition from our current 4G LTE service to 5G. The progress we will make with 5G merely begins with the devices in the palms of your hands. We’re going to see advancements in the home, the classroom, the streets and most importantly, the economy.
At the beginning of this year, I outlined my goals for 2019. One of my top priorities is to continue creating job opportunities and developing our people. Industry experts estimate that the rollout of this new 5G network infrastructure will have a $1.5 billion economic impact on Nebraska and create more than 9,000 job opportunities.
On top of that, it’s going to help Nebraska's college students. A 2016 study found that 81% of more than 3,300 college students surveyed said technology helped boost their academics. By strengthening our networks, we’re going to help the next generation achieve their dreams.
5G can make technology work better for Nebraskans in almost every corner of their daily life. Across the state, this next generation of networks will allow us to better manage our traffic systems, have clearer public safety communications and build an intelligent electrical grid.
5G will make Nebraska’s homes smarter and easier for everyone living in them. We will find new ways to utilize smart TVs, digital assistants and smart fridges, just to name a few devices. Since Nebraska took steps last year to become a leader in autonomous vehicle technology, you may even see a self-driving car on our streets with the help of 5G.
Not only will small cells help Nebraska’s future, but this advanced technology can help Nebraskans today.
Have you ever been at a Nebraska football game or Creighton basketball game and struggled to get service because the network was overloaded? We’re hoping this bill will make that issue a thing of the past. Small cell deployment will relieve service congestion during crowded events and in denser urban areas, like Lincoln and Omaha. Our cell towers can serve a lot of people, but like a tunnel, service can get congested when everyone is trying to use it at once. By adding capacity, small cells will help alleviate the strain to the network.
It is an honor to sign LB184 into law. I’m thankful for all the work senators have done to achieve this compromise and pass this bill with unanimous, bipartisan support. I am especially grateful for Lincoln Sen. Mike Hilgers for his leading role as a member of the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. He was instrumental in orchestrating conversations and concessions between all stakeholders, and his diligent work made the passing of this bill possible.
Giving Nebraskans improved connectivity is critical to continuing the growth of our already flourishing state. There are opportunities for all of us in this technology. Nebraska is poised to be a leader in America’s technological future.
Pete Ricketts is Nebraska's 40th governor.
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!