Dan Zumbach

Backers of a bill that easily passed the Iowa legislature earlier this month say it’s designed to bring the digital “5G revolution” into Iowa.

“Almost 70 percent of Americans own a smart phone and about 90 percent use the internet. Despite the prevalence of 4G broadband, 5G networks will connect billions of new internet devices and will allow new and emerging technologies to flourish in our society,” says Senator Dan Zumbach, a Republican from Ryan.

The bill sets up a new framework for where things called “small cells” may be placed. It’s not a tower, but small cells are basically a piece of equipment attached to things like already-existing utility poles. Small cells dramatically boost internet speed. Some city and county officials have raised concerns about new “clusters” of this equipment creating hazards or messy views for nearby residents.

Zumbach says the bill resolved some of those objections, plus it will let techology companies apply for batches of permits for these “small cells” all at once.

“This bill will set the table for wireless carriers to invest over a billion dollars in Iowa by striking a balance between predictable statewide regulation and the legitimate interest of our cities and their residents,” Zumbach says. “It strikes a balance between the demands of Iowans who crave this technology and the cities who want to control their right of ways.”

A 5G network offers peak speeds of 400 megabits per second. That’s four times faster than a 4G network. Existing 3G and 4G networks are increasingly congested — causing buffering issues for video and even preventing some users from logging on. Small cell technology allows clusters of the devices to tap into hard-fiber networks and dramatically increase connection speeds.

AT&T announced it would establish 5G networks in Austin, Texas and Indianapolis soon. Verizon has said it intends to get into 5G territory this year as well. The world’s first 5G networks are operating in Korea and Germany.