While there is considerable telecom hubris regarding the 5G rollout and increasing speculation that the next generation of wireless is not yet ready for Prime Time, the industry continues to make promises to Rural America that it has no intention of fulfilling. Decades-long promises to deliver digital Utopia to rural America by T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T have never materialized.
Despite much bravado, the biggest telecom carriers have never shown the willingness to fund the necessary infrastructure nor do they possess the necessary infrastructure to bridge the digital divide – despite $22 billion in government subsidies and grants over the last five years specifically to provide wireless coverage to rural America. At the same time, the incompetence at the FCC has been staggering – as an unreliable, albeit compromised, Commission that has consistently failed to provide accurate, reliable maps to identify broadband availability for rural America.
Whether 5G will measure up to its hype of performance and expectations remains a question since there is a different market today than when 4G came on line in 2010. At that time, there was room for improved cell service, more apps, video streaming and new subscribers. Today there is little new subscriber growth except in the chronically underserved areas of rural America which has been neglected by the telecom industry and FCC for decades. The challenge for 5G is to create a market demand, to devise new gimmicks to finagle higher revenues out of current subscribers and most especially to expand their toxic infrastructure to rural America. The market is much more aware than it was in 2010 as customers are no longer lining up around the corner to purchase the newest thingamajig.
As universal wireless coverage remains a myth in rural America, the Digital Divide is alive and well after decades of neglect by those telecoms who now see rural customers as their cash cow.
With the digital world of personal computers and cell phones a reality for the last three decades, broadband service to rural America has continued to play second fiddle in favor of upgrades to more affluent urban customers and the telecom industry’s bottom line.