5G is coming

Writing in the WSJ, Holman Jenkins points out that “the few things that are visibly working in the U.S. economy can still be lost.”

5G is coming—the new wireless standard delivering speeds faster than most of us get at home—but not before 2020. Verizon, meanwhile, has been telling shareholders that it doesn’t need to wait for a final 5G standard to deliver a “fixed” service now based on 5G. Already being tested near its Basking Ridge, N.J., headquarters is a network 58 times faster than today’s average home broadband speed—without digging up the streets.

We’re talking about a powerful replacement for home cable, not next decade but next year, revolutionizing home broadband deployment costs. “We’ve demonstrated . . . 1.8 gigs into the house without a wire,” Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam told a J.P. Morgan conference in May. “If I can do that, then virtual reality, all the other things, 3-D videoconferencing, the whole nine yards that we all grew up watching in Star Wars, actually might happen.”

Now for the “but.” There’s no way old-style utility regulation, as layered on by the Obama administration, can be anything but a deterrent to such investment. Verizon may proceed based on hope the policy will be overturned or that future Federal Communications Commissions will “forbear” from exercising the regulatory powers now at their disposal. But every company in the broadband business now has to worry about regulators essentially annexing the assets and profits of future deployments

As Friday’s disappointing GDP report reminds us, the Achilles’ heel of the recovery has been depressed business investment.  …those who cite today’s FCC promise that future FCCs will refrain from regulatory meddling ignore the most-cited axiom in politics: Power corrupts. There’s also a lesson here for the Trumpians, in the irreducibly shallow role that public opinion played. The childlike masses for whom net neutrality became a slogan roughly synonymous with “good,” and who never received any correction from the companies that benefit most from the internet, can now expect an ugly surprise at all that utility regulation actually entails.

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