At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when initial shutdowns rocked New Jersey, one of the many harsh realities that we were forced to deal with was the unacceptable lack of internet connectivity. Poor and rural communities without reliable internet were thrust into a world where it was absolutely essential for them to be connected — although we were arguably close to it being essential long before stay-at-home orders.
Whether it was for the sake of continuing to work remotely or for the ability of their children to continue to get a fair and equitable education, families and individuals needed the digital divide closed — and fast. It took months for the state to make significant developments in addressing this issue, but we are far from out of the woods. It is time for New Jersey to invest in 5G technology.
5G is aptly named as the 5th generation mobile network, the cutting edge of this technology. It is designed to connect people better, offering faster speeds, improved reliability and an increase in storage capacity compared to what we are all used to already. The technology delivers high peak data speeds and ultra-low latency, and it is quickly becoming a basic necessity for any business, family or student.
This improved efficiency is going to open the door to connecting industries and building new ones. As a state hoping to bounce back from the pandemic, and one that already had goals of being the Silicon Valley of the East Coast, this is the next necessary step towards success.
The framework is already here. New Jersey is at the epicenter of 5G development. Verizon and TechUnited: New Jersey have teamed up with small businesses in Hoboken to find ways that 5G could solve some of the issues brought on to their business because of the pandemic. This included virtual solutions for ordering takeout (a necessity during COVID lockdown), stronger connection for mobile point of sale operations and connecting with customers to boost sales.
The Verizon and TechUnited 5G Impact Challenge winners undeniably benefited from 5G. Meanwhile, in late 2020, Verizon launched the fastest 5G network in the world, in Jersey City. 5G deployment is growing fast, but the state must help drive that development.
So, what can we do to boost 5G accessibility in our state and continue to be a leader in this new age of connectivity? We can fully pass New Jersey’s proposed legislation A1116/S2674. This bill would grant wireless providers access to a municipality’s right-of-way in order to install the infrastructure necessary to support 5G technology. With 565 municipalities in New Jersey, having wireless providers go through the regulatory process for each individual town and city will make it extremely complicated and time-consuming for all stakeholders involved.
We run the risk of 5G technology not being uniformly deployed or having the remote areas of our state left to the wayside to continue to deal with slower to no connectivity like they have for too long. As technology continues to evolve to help those that have been devastated by the pandemic, small businesses and families alike should know that they can count on a reliable 5G infrastructure, and our state has to take the steps to make that a reality.
Aaron Price is the CEO of TechUnited: New Jersey and founder of Propelify.