AUGUSTA — Over the past seven years, the wireless industry has invested nearly $100 million each year to improve service in the state of Maine. This laudable and necessary effort has helped to keep our state moving forward and enabled Maine’s residents and businesses to capitalize on new opportunities.

One such opportunity could be better facilitated by L.D. 1517, a bill sponsored by Rep. Teresa Pierce to bring enhanced wireless service to a broader swath of Maine through the use of an important wireless technology called “small cells.” Small cells, which are unobtrusive antennas that attach to utility poles along roads and highways, boost capacity and speed of mobile wireless service, allowing for better coverage and faster downloads. These devices can also greatly expand capacity for consumers in congested areas.

Today, people are consuming more and more wireless data on more and more devices. Researchers have found that the number of connected devices in the United States is 180 million and growing. Total mobile data traffic is projected to grow to 49 gigabytes in 2023 – nearly a seven-fold increase from 2017. Cisco projects that by 2021, networks will be strained when smart devices are expected to account for three-quarters of all devices connected to a mobile network – generating 98 percent of mobile data traffic.

Consumer demand for data has grown and will continue to increase exponentially as the technology of tomorrow becomes part of our daily lives. Small cells can help by enhancing service and preparing a community’s network for future increases in demand.

But the benefits extend beyond today.

Small cells will form the backbone for eventual 5G service and the next generation of technology. Investment in these new technologies holds exciting prospects for communities, public safety, businesses, entrepreneurs, schools and students.

For example, with the additional capacity provided by small cells, new wireless technologies will enable advances in artificial intelligence, connected cars, smart infrastructure and telemedicine. They will connect things like lighting, water utilities, parking, public transportation and more to the internet – saving money, preserving natural resources and fostering more connected communities.

5G and smart cities technology are expected to have a positive impact on economic development, whether it is by creating jobs, giving entrepreneurs new resources, enabling investment in infrastructure or empowering employers and employees to work and think differently through things like telework, videoconferencing or streamlined operations.

Ultimately, the possible innovations of the future are endless, and states that embrace forward-thinking foundation projects like small-cell installation will be leaders in crafting that future.

This is where we see the greatest opportunity for Maine – to give our people the tools needed to succeed and lead in the digital age.

Elected officials can facilitate this future by clarifying and streamlining the approval process for small-cell deployment. L.D. 1517 does just that, and we encourage our legislators to support this effort.

From Portland to Presque Isle, growth, opportunity and innovation can flourish if we facilitate wireless infrastructure investment today.


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