Last December, Wall Street Journal columnist Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., published a column entitled, “Is Airwave Nimbyism Holding Back 5G?” where he suggested that some stakeholders have been keeping Ligado’s spectrum “hostage for a decade.”
While noting that “companies looking to bring superfast 5G mobile wireless to consumers and businesses” are “hunting up the infrastructure and service providers whose help they’ll need,” Jenkins explained that the 40 MHz of midband spectrum Ligado hopes to deploy could be missing from that infrastructure list “thanks to a Nimby (not in my backyard) war among Washington interest groups.”
The last line of the column reads, “Ligado’s failure would be an unhappy precedent just as multiple new service providers expect to crowd into the nation’s airwaves and need every incentive to play nicely with one another.
That bit about playing nicely reminded me of the timeless lessons on civility Fred Rogers imparted in his television show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Through the playful characters, Mister Rogers helped us learn how to build strong and respectful communities; he embraced differences and listened. He understood that conflict is a natural part of community but also that people with different beliefs, ideas, or perspectives can co-exist.
As the U.S. pushes hard and fast to beat the world in the global 5G race, there is a lot from the television show that’s applicable, particularly since the key to winning will be access to spectrum. Policymakers must work to deliver an “all-of-the-above” approach that will advance America toward next-generation technologies and reinforce the importance of consideration among neighbors, even as neighborhoods change to meet communities’ evolving needs.
Unfortunately, spectrum reallocation discussions among government and the wireless and satellite industries have all too often devolved into un-neighborly yelling matches predicated on the false notion that spectrum is a zero-sum game and should be hoarded at literally any cost. What’s lost in these debates – aside from a lot of time that could be better used to make progress – is that we are all on the same team.
We all want and need to win the race to 5G because we agree that spectrum, technology, and innovation are essential ingredients for a strong, secure, and vibrant U.S. economy. Sure, there’s a lot of debate as to how we achieve that goal, particularly with all the various interests and stakeholders pushing their own arguments and views onto policymakers. Arbitrary rules that make hundreds of megahertz of prime spectrum unusable won’t cut it. Keeping things the way they have always been won’t keep us safe or ahead in an ever-changing world. Winning will require that we all work together.
At Ligado, we strive to be good spectrum neighbors and have spent the past three years taking the time to listen to our neighbors and find common ground. In doing so, we also believe we’ve helped make critical systems like GPS more resilient and reliable for everyone. That’s good for the entire community. And while we may not yet be at the point where we can collectively sing, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” we are making progress toward that goal.
Because the way for America to be its best and win the 5G race is to accept that we must all respect boundaries, embrace differences, and welcome new innovation.
Enjoy the video!