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Verizon wants consumers to do its 5G bidding

Verizon 5G
Photo: David Becker/Getty Images

Aiming to convince cities to move faster on 5G, Verizon is enlisting its consumers to do some work on its behalf.

What's new: The company launched a website on Monday where consumers and businesses can petition their local governments to support the deployment of new networking gear, known as small cells, needed to deliver the next generation of cellular technology,

The purpose is two-fold: Getting customers to engage with public officials in favor of 5G, and spotting groundswells of interest as an indicator of demand.

  • Translated: Verizon is leveraging its customers for local lobbying — although Verizon says it's fully transparent that it's behind the effort — while also mapping out its footprint.
  • "We want to build networks and services on those networks, and to do that we need constituents who want those services," a Verizon spokesperson tells Axios.

Why it matters: A major hurdle for telecom companies wanting to roll out 5G is getting each municipal government to approve all the permitting requests to install hundreds of thousands of small-cell antennas all over town.

Verizon is also taking a page out of the playbook used by tech companies when expanding to new areas.

  • For example, Google and Amazon asked cities to pitch them on bringing high-speed fiber internet service and HQ2, respectively, to their areas.
  • Yes, but: Google Fiber was selling the promise of fast fiber, which at the time (2011) was rare and enticing. Amazon HQ was selling jobs, jobs, jobs. Verizon, on the other hand, is selling a technology whose applications don't yet exist.

Our thought bubble: Motivating the masses to shout loudly that they want 5G faster could be tough. Despite the industry hype around 5G, many consumers still have no idea what it is or why they should care. For many, their current 4G LTE service allows them to stream movies and browse the web just fine.

Go deeper: Trump team considers nationalizing 5G network