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Photo: Axios

Jessica Rosenworcel, acting chairperson of the Federal Communications Commission, told an Axios virtual event that the key to helping close the digital divide is to focus on 5G midband spectrum, not millimeter wave.

Why it matters: Research shows that closing the gap in broadband access could add hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions of dollars in economic output, Axios' Bryan Walsh writes.

What she's saying: Rosenworcel said that the FCC made a mistake a few years ago when it focused all of its energy in the early 5G days on millimeter wave.

  • "If we just relied on millimeter wave spectrum, we'd actually grow the digital divide with 5G," she said. "The good news is in the last year and the last several months, we really recognized that we have to pivot from millimeter wave spectrum to midband spectrum."
  • "So, moving a big band spectrum, which propagates further – and further is exactly what we need to do – and the good news is we're doing it right now."

Watch the full event here.

Go deeper

Updated Jul 16, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on America's digital connectivity

On Friday, July 16, Axios chief technology correspondent Ina Fried and national technology correspondent Kim Hart unpacked efforts to close the digital divide and the future of 5G technologies, featuring FCC acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel, The Manufacturing Institute executive director Carolyn Lee and Qualcomm Incorporated president & CEO Cristiano Amon.

Jessica Rosenworcel covered what the future looks like for 5G implementation as well as its unique challenges and benefits.

  • On the kinds of applications 5G will make possible as opposed to 4G: “If we do this right, it won't all be centered on our phones...The most interesting things will be precision agriculture, manufacturing, and health care, where we're able to monitor and identify what we need at any given moment with greater clarity and speed than we've ever seen before. I think there's a whole bunch of innovation and technologies that are going to develop with that connectivity.”
  • On ensuring the next 5G deployment phase is as efficient and secure as possible: “We recognize that we've only got a handful of equipment providers across the world. And we asked ourselves, what can we do to diversify those who supply equipment? Because some of the biggest ones are from China and we have concerns about surveillance associated with that equipment and whether or not it's really, truly secure for networks that are going to touch so many facets of our economy.”

Cristiano Amon discussed why 5G will be critical in the coming years and what tangible changes the average tech user will experience with its implementation.

  • On connectivity and getting reliably integrated with the cloud: “5G is going to be how all of us are going to connect to the Internet. It is this transformative technology that at the end of the day will get everything connected to the cloud 100% of the time in a reliable manner. The way we think about 5G is almost like the role of electricity. When we talk about connecting to the Internet and connecting to the cloud today, we don't talk much about the use of electricity, we just assume it's there...That's the reason 5G is so important. It is going to be not only important for consumers, but for all other industries.”
  • On how critical building 5G infrastructure will be for governments and businesses alike: “The reality is it's critical infrastructure, no different than the power grid and railroads and ports and roads...If you just look at what happened in 4G, the United States built a nationwide 4G network and it was the first country to build it. There were a number of different companies and business models that came up with an innovation-based economy that was only possible because of the 4G network.”

Carolyn Lee unpacked how 5G technology will affect the manufacturing sector, and the importance of moving forward strategically.

  • On the process of implementing this technology and how it will serve businesses: “Efficiency, of course, is key to manufacturing competitiveness...The deployment of 5G will help us speed up inventory management, supply chain management, logistics, all of which we saw during this last year, as we combatted COVID that were critical and had a really big impact on the manufacturing sector and all of our customers. So the ability to use 5G to help speed up those processes, bring in new systems and support systems to help deploy that faster is going to really have a big impact.”
  • On the many opportunities 5G has the potential to create: “What these technologies are creating is actually new jobs, new skills, and new opportunities for human workers to bring their human skills to work. And so it is really exciting that we are able to promote this 5G technology on the ground. More widespread adoption will allow for more companies to be able to manage their workflow, help their employees, and overall be more efficient.”

Thank you Qualcomm for sponsoring this event.

Rep. Houlahan: Pandemic highlighted need for "broadband access for everyone"

Photo: Axios

The coronavirus pandemic has spotlighted the need for "broadband access for everyone," Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.) said during an Axios at a virtual event that aired Thursday.

Why it matters: The shift to remote learning during the pandemic exposed a stark digital divide, disproportionately affecting students of color and those from low-income households.

2 hours ago - World

Biden: U.S. combat mission in Iraq will end this year

Biden returning to the White House on July 25. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The United States' combat mission against the Islamic State in Iraq will be completed "by the end of the year," President Biden said Monday prior to a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

Why it matters: Biden is close to shifting the U.S. military mission in Iraq to a fully advisory role more than 18 years after combat troops were sent to the country under the former President George W. Bush.

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