Frank Farry

By Frank Farry, State Representative

Now more than ever, people throughout the state of Pennsylvania are relying on advanced technologies to not only connect to the world around them, but also keep them safe.

Our reliance on mobile technology means that wireless data traffic is rising at an astonishing pace. With that comes the need for more capacity on wireless networks. And that capacity isn’t just needed for sharing the latest picture of your kids or tropical vacation on social media, it’s also for first responders to stay connected to each other and to the citizens they bravely protect and serve.

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania currently lacks the infrastructure to support these needs in our communities and allow access to 5G technology when it becomes commercially available in 2020. A legislative framework for the deployment of small cell nodes, the backbone by which 5G technology will be supported, is critical.

That’s why I’m sponsoring House Bill 1400, the Small Wireless Facilities Deployment Act. HB 1400 sets standards for deployment fees, provides a streamlined permitting process and creates an environment which enables small cell deployment.

Twenty-eight other states and Puerto Rico have passed statewide legislation that streamlines the deployment of small cells. These are the states that will benefit from 5G first and are seeing millions of dollars of investment.

To comprehend why this legislation is important, it’s helpful to understand 5G and small cells. Small cells are discrete infrastructure typically installed within the public right-of-way that are the same size as common utility infrastructure like electrical transformers or traffic signal controllers. And, because of their size, they can be readily put in a number of everyday locations, ranging from utility and light poles to traffic lights and building exteriors.

Small cells are typically installed in areas of network congestion to supplement capacity from traditional telecommunication towers. More small cells means more room on wireless networks for calls, texts and data, making calls more reliable and wireless internet downloads faster.

Smart devices that can connect to 5G will experience connections at least 40 times faster and capacity four times greater than 4G LTE. This could prove especially important in the event of a large-scale emergency or natural disaster, when wireless networks often experience traffic surges as people try to connect with emergency services or loved ones.

With 5G technology and next-generation networks in place, first responders can quickly download building floorplans, upload ultrasounds of injured citizens or share video and data from inside a burning building. First responders could also have the ability to enable video-intensive applications, including bomb squad robotics or thermal and medical imaging.

In addition, small cell technology will help lay the foundation for various Smart City initiatives that could benefit public safety. Technology such as gunfire detection could allow law enforcement to react more quickly and effectively to an emergency. Along with that, innovations like access to real-time traffic conditions would help first responders determine the fastest route to an emergency.

The benefits of this technology are clear in how it could vastly improve public safety throughout Pennsylvania – that is why we must pass House Bill 1400.

State Rep. Frank Farry represents the 142nd Legislative District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, serving parts of Bucks County.