Hi, friends! I'm (mostly) back after a mild concussion sidelined me for a bit. I appreciate all the nice notes while I was out.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The fate of the national race to build 5G wireless service depends on how effectively the guts of the network — namely, hundreds of thousands of bulky antennas — are placed in cities.
Why it matters: While global tensions mount over pressure to build 5G networks as fast as possible, U.S. cities are in a fight of their own with telecom carriers and federal regulators over how new 5G antennas — or small cells — will be scattered throughout downtowns and neighborhoods.
Driving the news: On Feb. 10, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, California, will hear the case between cities and the Federal Communications Commission over the placement of 5G antennas.
Context: Wireless companies say one of the biggest hurdles to deploying 5G networks is the need to negotiate with city officials for permission to install small cells, and that some cities were charging excessive fees for access to city property.
The other side: City leaders, however, say the one-size-fits-all rules undermine their authority to charge market rates for property access. They also say the mandated fee structure weakens their leverage to negotiate wider 5G build-outs that, for example, cover poor neighborhoods as well as rich ones.
What's next: A decision in the lawsuit over 5G infrastructure placement is expected later this year. Until then, the litigation creates uncertainty for both cities and carriers during what is supposed to be a critical time for 5G rollouts.
Two Georgia towns, 10 miles apart in the northern suburbs of Atlanta, have drastically different reactions to the realities of deploying 5G networks:
In the 1960s, what is now Peachtree Corners was the site of the area's first "technology park," home to some of the region's early tech firms. The city now wants to be a high-tech hub.
City manager Brian Johnson has been leveraging corporate partnerships — including with Sprint to install 5G service — to become a smart-city testing ground.
The city wants to attract startups to its incubator space called Curiosity Lab, which includes an autonomous vehicle test track and AVs that bring patrons to its restaurants and hotels.
Down the road, telecom carriers have installed a couple dozen 5G small cells. City leaders aren't happy that they have such little say over where the equipment gets placed.
"People aren't against 5G. They're not against new technologies coming in, but they're definitely against having things willy-nilly plopped in their front lawn," said Christian Sigman, city manager of Brookhaven. "And we're going to get the blame for it because rubber hits the road right here at City Hall."
Axios talked to FCC commissioners and city officials in Georgia about the legal battle surrounding federal rules for erecting new 5G antennas, and the realities on the ground.
A wireless tower housing 5G small cell technology in the front yard of a home in Brookhaven, Georgia. Photo: Screen shot from Axios video
The not-in-my-backyard battles may soon have a new target: 5G small cells.
By the numbers:
"It's one thing to see the installation of the 5G boxes on poles on a main corridor that doesn't offend people. But if you're in a heavily residential area and you're not expecting to see that type of thing, it's almost like having a power transformer in your front yard. People are not going to like those."— Christian Sigman, city manager of Brookhaven, Georgia
Still, consumers are excited about 5G — and willing to pay more for it — even though they don’t really know what it is, according to a recent Morning Consult poll of 5,600 adults in the U.S. and EU commissioned by IBM.
Between the lines: There has been a lot of hype about the promise of 5G, but consumers are still struggling with the specifics ahead of widespread rollout — and NIMBY backlash may slow down small cell construction in neighborhoods.
Water-related infrastructure topped the list of infrastructure priorities for mayors, according to the 2019 Menino Survey of Mayors released this month.
Why it matters: The survey revealed urgency around investments in water, wastewater and stormwater facilities, with mayors 10 percentage points more likely to focus on that issue than four years ago.
The intrigue: When asked which project they would fund if they received a large unrestricted grant, only 4% of the 119 mayors surveyed listed broadband as a top infrastructure need. And broadband didn't make the priority list at all when asked about smaller-scale projects.
Between the lines: Both parties tout the benefits of broadband and 5G as being essential 21st-century infrastructure.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Partnerships between urban and rural municipalities, educational institutions and corporations are beginning to create opportunities to address urban-rural gaps in transit, food security and broadband access, writes Metro21's Karen Lightman for Axios Expert Voices.
Why it matters: The rural-urban divide, particularly with regard to broadband access, boils down to a mismatch in where resources are allocated, and these programs strive to distribute resources beyond urban cores.
But, but, but: When projects move forward without community input, they can raise concerns about surveillance and data collection.
Karen Lightman is executive director of Metro21: Smart Cities Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.
Fed manufacturing indexes jump in January, suggesting a rebound may be coming☝️(Axios)
Big Tech goes green but still can't escape climate pressure (Axios)
Paris' mayor has the dream of 'the 15-minute city' (Fast Company)
The tug-of-war over how banks should give back to poor communities (Axios)
JPMorgan Chase commits $22 million for Bay Area housing (SF Chronicle)
Uber braces for clash with EU cities on scooter data (WSJ)
An iguana chills next to a pond on a golf course. Photo: John McCoy/Getty Images
Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports: South Floridians last week had cold weather with unusual repercussions — unconscious iguanas falling from the trees. (This video is worth a watch.)
Driving the news: Temperatures in the 30s and 40s stunned the reptiles, but didn't necessarily kill them. Many woke up as temperatures rose again, per the National Weather Service of Miami.
Why it matters: As average temperatures continue to rise in South Florida, the invasive species' population has increased dramatically in recent years, Bloomberg reports. Southern districts are being forced to assess damages from their presence.
Hope you have a great, fully conscious week ahead.