How 5G Could Digitally Divide in a Post Net Neutrality World

The likely repeal of net neutrality got me thinking about the rollout of early 5G services and how that might be affected by the end of Title II rules, as such next-generation networks are a likely place where operators can start experimenting with new pricing structures and more.

At a high-level, 5G -- especially high-band millimeter wave 5G -- is going to exacerbate the digital divide. Initially, that's because it will be rolled out in dense urban pockets and will likely never be deployed in rural areas. This no surprise; the same was true of 4G and 3G before it. If the operators don't think they can make money off deploying it, they probably won't. (See Islands in the Stream: Don't Expect Full mmWave 5G Coverage in US, Says Nokia and Nokia Bell Labs & Verizon Stretch Fixed 5G to the Home.)

Now, this might affect more than a rural user's access to a fast broadband connection. The low-latency 5G network is supposed to be a technology that underpins self-driving cars. So if you can't get 5G in your town, will connected cars be viable? Meanwhile, a rural business might find itself at a significant disadvantage if it can't take advantage of the Internet of Things (IoT) support coming in 2019's Phase II 5G specifications.

I'm sure that the deployment of low-band (600MHz) 5G from the likes of T-Mobile US Inc. and beyond could help to alleviate some of those issues. Much wider coverage with the lower bands, y'see. But it's a solid bet that some rural areas in the US will find themselves at a disadvantage, possibly for years, maybe even forever.

Beyond that, new features in the 5G core architecture make segregating network access and services easier than ever before. Network slicing has mostly been marketed as a way to provide low-latency localized services with a lower data rates, for dedicated IoT sensors and so on. But that, of course, that means that slices could be set up to offer, let's say, much higher data rates for -- oh, say -- streaming video services from specific providers.

So, you can see what I'm suggesting here, right? If net neutrality gets canned, I think we can assume that operators will start experimenting with different content packages at selective data rates and pricing schemes.

Now, forthcoming 5G is the nearest thing US has to a greenfield market for wireless right now. The expectation is that 5G users will consume at least ten times the data they do on 4G. If operator executives know how they will price such services yet, they ain't saying. I've asked!

So, 5G seems like an ideal testing ground for the new rules of a post-net neutrality world.

Buckle up!

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— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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kq4ym 12/11/2017 | 1:00:38 PM
Re: Don't worry there won't be a return to the dark ages. While there are good and bad arguments on both sides of any issue, including net neutrality, it's usually not easy to predict just what will happen in the future. Either way the decisions play out, the public and providers will surely find ways to protect and further their interests. The only thing we might safely predict is change will happen no matter what over time.
Joe Stanganelli 11/30/2017 | 11:00:17 PM
Re: 5G is a Game Changer > The FTC lacks rulemaking authority

Doesn't matter. Like any federal agency, they have Chevron deference, and you'd be surprised how broad the term "deceptive and unfair trade practice" can be.

> over-extended and under-funded

BECAUSE their jurisdiction is so broad and powerful. You could make this argument of the FTC with 100x their budget and their staff because they have so much enforcement authority.

> currently in court against AT&T, who is trying to ensure the FTC DOESN'T have authority over ISPs

Good luck to AT&T on that.
brooks7 11/30/2017 | 11:04:10 AM
Re: 5G is a Game Changer KB,


I asked for a Tier 1:  AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Charter, TWC.....

Not some little company.  All the complaints here is that the large providers will screw the consumer.  I ask for history around that nobody with say less than 5M customers.  Are the small providers potentially a problem, yes.  But you don't call them out.  You call out the big boys.

Now, that same situation existed in South Dakota during both the 2nd Bush and Obama administrations.  And that is NOT a problem of Net Neutrality.  That is a problem of Universal Access.

Net Neutrality - All bits are created equal.

Universal Access - Everyone should have the same Access.

Net Neutrality applies to 56K modem customers.  Title II as implemented does not mandate the creation of a broadband Carrier of Last Resort nor a mandate to have a network available at a reasonable cost.  If you want Universal Access, that is a different fight in the Congress and FCC.

I want to point out that let us say that Comcast connected all of its Internet Customers peered  through a single T-1 that it could still meet the rules of Title II.  Nobody would have any reasonable service, but as long as it didn't do anything it is completely within its rights.




Duh! 11/29/2017 | 6:25:16 PM
Re: 5G is a Game Changer Verizon announced their fixed 5G launch after the markets closed today, with some of the details. Dan just put up a story. It does challenge some of my assumptions.
KBode 11/29/2017 | 5:56:43 PM
Re: 5G is a Game Changer "The low-e glass problem may be a show-stopper, since the plan was to get in through the window panes.  Folks at Verizon Labs are obsessed with it. Nokia has been prototyping two-part AUs that fit on either side of a window. Obviously a kludge, and the outdoor piece can trigger an obnoxious landlord."

What ever happened with all the hype surrounding Starry? Did they ever materialize a product that worked any better?
KBode 11/29/2017 | 5:45:05 PM
Re: 5G is a Game Changer There's countless examples of ISPs, both before and after 2015, abusing a lack of competition (net neutrality is just a symptom of that disorder), especially on the privacy front, so I leave that for you to Google on your time. 

"That is why I contend even talking about Net Neutrality is a waste of time.  It might not be in the future, but at the same time we don't build out network.  That is the priority to me...100Mb/s access to every residence and business in the US by 2020."

That's driven by either competition or competent regulatory policy. Not sure if you've driven through, say, South Dakota lately? Most users have the choice of an apatheic, upgrade-phobic, debt-ridden telco like Frontier, or a cable company with worse customer satisfaction ratings than the IRS. And on the federal regulatory policy front, well, Trump.

And while wireless will bring some relief, AT&T/Verizon's domination of the backhaul/BDS market, the same rural ROI problems, and its high cost prevent it from being a real fixed-line alternative anytime soon.

Again, the answer to all of this isn't to gut some modest consumer protections or, as Ajit Pai is doing, downgrade the definition of broadband so that we can collectively pretend these problems don't exist. 
KBode 11/29/2017 | 5:39:09 PM
Re: 5G is a Game Changer "The FTC has concurrent, far less refutable, and FAR broader jurisdiction when it comes to anything even remotely resembling unfair competition."

The FTC lacks rulemaking authority, is over-extended and under-funded, can only act after abuses have happened (often to the point of high comedy) and is currently in court against AT&T, who is trying to ensure the FTC DOESN'T have authority over ISPs, so no. Check out this from former FCC boss Tom Wheeler: 


Several FTC Commissioners have been saying the same thing.

"Moreover, Congress can specifically legislate in this area (which Pai has urged to have happen)."

Congress can't legislate its way out of a paper bag. And when it does these days, it's usually to find a way to screw consumers, not help them. Any chance of them passing a net neutrality law without massive intentional loopholes is extremely unlikely.
DanJones 11/29/2017 | 1:03:51 PM
Re: 5G is a Game Changer Same as it ever was, Joe.


You can't mess with the laws of physics!
Joe Stanganelli 11/28/2017 | 10:29:20 PM
Re: 5G is a Game Changer @Dan: Or, for that matter, certain urban buildings using particular types of glass or other building materials, as I recall... How's that shaping up?
Joe Stanganelli 11/28/2017 | 10:27:14 PM
Re: 5G is a Game Changer @KBode: All of that assumes that the only way for the government to control net neutrality is through the FCC and existing FCC regulatory schemes. That's not true. The FTC has concurrent, far less refutable, and FAR broader jurisdiction when it comes to anything even remotely resembling unfair competition. Moreover, Congress can specifically legislate in this area (which Pai has urged to have happen).
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