By David Kerr, President, AT&T Pennsylvania

People no longer look only toward Silicon Valley to find a thriving tech sector. Instead, they’re also looking toward Pittsburgh, the heart of a region that has emerged as a hotspot for some of the most innovative companies and startups.

In Pittsburgh, world-class universities are readying brilliant technological minds for the workforce. Companies like Uber, Google and Facebook have set up shop in the ‘Burgh, because of the talented workforce, quality of life and more. Startups throughout the city are doing incredible things, too.

Pittsburgh-based Argo is making self-driving cars a reality. Duolingo is helping people around the globe learn a new language in their spare time – from the palms of their hands. And JazzHR is streamlining the process of connecting potential employers and employees around the world. These companies – indeed all Pittsburghers – rely on fast, reliable and ubiquitous mobile broadband networks. And at AT&T we’re always investing in our network to keep Pittsburgh connected.

Everyone in the tech industry should get behind modern rules for a modern Pittsburgh economy. We all need to share our perspectives with lawmakers in Harrisburg, asking them to support this legislation.

If we want to help the City of Champions maintain its position as a high-tech hub; become a magnet for investment; and attract and keep top talent from around the world, our public policies need to be modernized. Specifically, we need to pass legislation that will create a more efficient path to investing in broadband infrastructure called small cells.

Small cells are inconspicuous equipment that can be installed on new or existing utility poles or other structures to add capacity to our wireless networks. Consider this: from 2007 through last year, data traffic on the AT&T network increased by more than 470,000 percent. Imagine if traffic on the Parkway or the Ft. Pitt Bridge increased by 470,000 percent in a decade—without any increased capacity! Small cells add additional lanes to the mobile broadband highway, allowing traffic to travel freely and more quickly. Small cells also are necessary to lay the foundation for emerging and future technologies, including 5G. Super-fast, low-latency 5G networks will support the artificial intelligence that will power self-driving vehicles and machine learning. These advancements could also allow us to see massive leaps in both augmented and virtual reality and virtual presence, which can be used to save lives through telemedicine.

Currently, the Pennsylvania legislature is considering House Bill 1400, a bill that will streamline the process for approving and installing small cell infrastructure across Pennsylvania, while respecting local control. There are 130 municipalities in Allegheny County – and more than 2,500 statewide – and each has its own process and rules for installing this modern communications equipment. This bill would establish a more uniform, predictable process that can help speed up investment in this critical communications infrastructure. So far, 29 other states, including Ohio and West Virginia, have passed small cell laws, so it’s time for Pennsylvania to catch up.

Everyone in the tech industry should get behind modern rules for a modern Pittsburgh economy. We all need to share our perspectives with lawmakers in Harrisburg, asking them to support this legislation. Without a new regulatory framework for small cells, Pittsburgh’s economy could miss opportunities to build on the growth of our local tech sector. At AT&T, we’re ready to deploy small cells to help enable Pittsburgh’s innovators to reach for new and exciting heights. We have only just begun to see what Steel City can do, let’s not stop now.

Visit www.connectpennsylvania.com to learn more.