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I’m a Former FCC Commissioner, and I Think the T-Mobile-Sprint Merger Is Great for America

Robert M. McDowell, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) commissioner, during a House hearing on broadband. McDowell believes the T-Mobile-Sprint merger will help America win the global race to a 5G network. Scott J. Ferrell—Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images

It’s dawning on policymakers, business leaders, urban and rural Americans, and our global competitors just how Internet connectivity will define the economy of the future.

Some like to call it the Internet of Things (IoT) economy, one in which Internet access supports a new wave of global growth. Around the world, wireless and tech companies are scrambling to build the infrastructure for such an economy, while countries are competing to create the technological standards and innovative capacity needed to spark IoT economic growth.

One technology that will underpin this era is the fifth generation of global wireless networks: 5G.

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Two American companies, Sprint and T-Mobile—both of which are already investing in 5G technology—just announced their intentions to merge, a move that will significantly accelerate 5G deployment and be a boon to American innovators. (I currently serve as an advisor to T-Mobile.) By bringing these two wireless carriers under one roof, each company’s already present 5G expertise and network assets will be combined and accelerated, benefiting the American people and our country’s global leadership.

U.S. companies are in a race against their Asian and European counterparts to be the global leaders in 5G technology. The countries that implement 5G first will set global standards and reap the economic benefits of winning the race.

During my time at the Federal Communications Commission, we helped roll out 4G technology, which was driven by strong American leadership and brought with it billions of dollars in economic benefits for Americans. The 4G economy gave us the speed and capacity needed to launch the app revolution, which invigorated some of our largest and most successful Internet companies. As our world embraces an IoT economy driven by billions of connected devices, 5G is poised to do the same.

5G technology will increase Internet connectivity, reduce delays, and jump-start rural and urban growth in the U.S. It will enable Internet-connected devices to join people, data, and new devices, and will multiply download speeds up to 10 times, allowing wireless carriers to offer high-speed services to those in underserved rural communities.

This will fuel economic growth and benefit the American worker. A Qualcomm-commissioned study estimates that in the U.S. alone, 5G will yield $719 billion in growth and 3.4 million new jobs by 2035. Americans from coast to coast, in small towns and big cities, will reap the benefits of 5G technology, especially if American companies are the ones leading the way in global implementation.

The T-Mobile-Sprint merger will benefit our country and all Americans. From a farmer in Nebraska using 5G technology to better track crop conditions, to a small business owner in New Hampshire looking to sell products in the global marketplace, to a smart city with autonomous vehicles, all of us will depend on 5G. We can’t afford to lose the global race to develop this remarkable technology.

Robert M. McDowell is a former FCC commissioner (2006–13), a partner at Cooley LLP, and an advisor to T-Mobile.

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