By Rosa Mendoza, President and CEO, ALLvanza

The rapid expansion of 5G mobile networks in the United States has the potential to bring huge benefits to consumers, companies, and society. ALLvanza is working with its partners to ensure that all communities are able to share in the promise of this technological innovation.

Relative to 4G, the previous generation of mobile networks, 5G has much faster speeds, shorter latencies (basically, the time it takes your device to communicate with an online network), and increased bandwidth. Some have predicted that the widespread availability of 5G will usher in a new industrial revolution, reducing waste and increasing efficiency in manufacturing, transportation, and agriculture, and making our cities smarter and more sustainable by modernizing infrastructure and service delivery. It has been estimated that by 2030, 5G deployment will add 4.5 million jobs and increase US GDP by $1.5 trillion.

In addition to expanding economic opportunity for millions of Americans, 5G technology can also help close the digital divide for the many residents of rural areas who lack affordable and reliable broadband access. A study by Accenture estimates that 5G fixed wireless access could connect up to 8.4 million homes, representing almost half of America’s rural households.

It is essential that the federal government (and local governments) partner with industry to ensure that the technological innovations spurred by 5G technology are deployed in ways that reduce rather than strengthen existing inequalities in education, employment, and health. Students from underserved communities should have greater access to and participation in online education and tutoring that would lessen achievement gaps. Workers should be able to learn about, apply to, and take advantage of more job opportunities than ever before. The spread of 5G technologies puts these goals within our reach.

Consider healthcare. People who are part of racial and ethnic minority communities are disproportionately affected by some major health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. They are more likely to suffer from lack of access to routine healthcare. That means those communities have the most to gain from innovations in healthcare and telehealth which make healthcare more affordable, convenient, and accessible.

Traditionally underserved communities must have the ability to learn or work remotely, access telehealth appointments and other online health resources, and participate in the growing online economy. That means they must have affordable, reliable access to technological innovations as well as the knowledge to take advantage of them.

Addressing those needs requires a recognition from the federal government that 5G can be a powerful tool to close the digital divide, a commitment to prioritizing deployment of broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities, and an effort to remove regulatory roadblocks to deployment.

Closing the digital divide will also require greater investment in teaching digital literacy skills to enable individuals and families to take advantage of new opportunities, and passage of comprehensive legislation that allows consumers to protect their families’ safety and privacy.

The spread of 5G technologies gives policymakers, the telecommunications industry, and community leaders both the opportunity and the responsibility to shrink the digital divide and empower underserved communities. ALLvanza is committed to ensuring that together we meet that responsibility, and give all communities the opportunity to flourish.