Broadband, Economic Development, and Mobile Networks

This package of materials developed for CETF's March 8, 2017 Technology and Innovation Forum in Sacramento includes: an executive summary of "Broadband Access and Adoption: Historic Perspective and Economic Impact," UC Riverside Center for Broadband and Digital Literacy; the following 5G fact sheet; and news articles and corporate summaries on 5G and fixed wireless.


The Future of Mobile Networks and 5G

March 2017


What is 5G?

5th generation mobile networks, abbreviated 5G, are the proposed next generation of wireless telecommunications standards.  Carriers are marketing 5G for its provision of higher speeds, greater capacity, seamless connectivity, and lower latency, offering      1 gigabit per second or faster for greater numbers of users.   5G technology, according to available descriptions, combines fiber deployment with wireless connections to end-users, with the fiber needing to be within about 1,000 feet of the end user.

What will 5G do?

5G will support billions of connected devices, enabling the “Internet of Things,” driverless cars, virtual and merged reality, smart agriculture, and other technologies that require heightened network capacity, communication, and data transfer.  Verizon says “fixed wireless” (home Internet) will be its first 5G application.   AT&T has talked about using 5G to replace its old DSL offerings, enabling the company to deliver a quad play of DirecTV service, 5G home Internet, wireless phone, and home phone.

When will 5G arrive?

Carriers have been announcing 5G’s imminence for several years.  Over the past few months, however, AT&T, Verizon, and other carriers have issued press releases stating plans to pilot and field-test 5G in several U.S. locations in 2017.  Most industry analysts note that 5G will not be widely implemented until 2020 or perhaps not even until 2027.   And, then, it will be largely available in population dense, high-income, and fiber-rich areas.  For example, it appears that none of the 3 companies (AT&T, Frontier, and Consolidated) accepting $590 million FCC Connect America Fund 2 (CAF2) funds in California will be deploying 5G technology to upgrade / reach 231,825 underserved and undeserved locations, although AT&T will be constructing fixed wireless infrastructure.

Why is 5G important?

A Qualcomm-led study claims that by 2023, when 5G is fully realized across the globe, the technology could produce up to $12.3 trillion worth of goods and services enabled by 5G.  The same reports claims the “5G value chain” will generate up to $3.5 trillion in revenue in 2035 and could support 22 million jobs.  Other studies question whether 5G services will find a sizable enough market to support 5G’s costs.

What will consumers need for 5G?

Existing devices currently won’t work on 5G networks and 5G standards haven’t been established.  Thus, companies aren’t yet making consumer-ready, 5G-compatible devices.  5G likely will benefit hardware firms that can produce a new generation of must-have devices.

Is 5G a substitute for wireline broadband?

No.  A January 2017 Vantage Point paper states: “wireless technologies should be viewed as a complement—a tool in a toolkit—rather than a viable widespread substitute for wireline broadband networks.  In fact, newer wireless technologies will rely more heavily than any predecessor wireless technology upon far deeper penetration of wireline facilities.  Undoubtedly, 5G wireless technologies will result in better broadband performance than 4G wireless technologies and will offer much promise as a mobile complement to fixed services, but they still will not be the right choice for delivering the rapidly increasing broadband demanded by thousands or millions of households and businesses across America.”

How will 5G affect rural broadband?

Industry experts caution that neither 4G nor 5G provide connectivity solutions for rural broadband because wireless networks rely heavily on the wireline network.  This reliance on in-the-ground, expensive fiber infrastructure only will increase with 5G because only a small portion of the last-mile customer connection (the “local loop”) will use wireless technologies.   In other words, 5G networks are predominantly wireline deep fiber networks, with only a small portion of their network using a wireless technology—the connection to the end-user.

Will 5G work in rural areas?

The only spectrum available for use by 5G is so high in frequency that the propagation loss and environmental impacts are extremely significant in rural areas with diverse terrain.  These high frequencies also have poor penetration capabilities.   To overcome these shortcomings, the 5G wireless cells must be placed very close to the customer (often within 300 to 500 feet or at the most 1,000-1,500 feet), which make 5G deployment more problematic for many rural communities.

What are carriers doing to prepare for 5G?

While technology companies such as Google and Facebook have scaled back their FTTP (Fiber-to-the-Premises) plans, broadband providers—wired and wireless—are seeking to increase the amount of fiber in their network in preparation for 5G. Landline providers are replacing their copper cable with fiber, cable operators are replacing their coax cable with fiber, and even wireless providers are replacing their wireless networks with fiber by placing their towers (or small cells) closer to the customer.

What will be the effect of 5G on the Digital Divide?

The Digital Divide—particularly between rural and urban areas—could widen as 5G rolls out, because there is little economic incentive to provide 5G in areas that are not population dense and fiber rich.  Also, given that 5G will require a new generation of 5G-ready devices, low-income consumers will have difficulty paying for the likely higher costs for both computer hardware and wireless and wireline service fees.  Thus, as technology evolves, additional effort will be needed to ensure that there is not a widening divide between low-income communities and the rest of California.









CETF 2016 Survey of Local Government Officials

CETF 2016 Survey of Local Government Officials

Finds Broadband Is Highly Connected to Community Well Being and Economic Development


Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA—November 16, 2016—Following on its 2016 Annual Survey on Broadband Adoption in California, the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) reached out to County, City and School District officials to better understand their views on broadband and found that 77% view high-speed Internet as “very important to the future economic prosperity and quality of life in their jurisdiction.”

Among the 250-plus respondents to the survey, the majority were city officials representing jurisdictions of 10,000-49,999.  Sixty percent were elected officials and 50% represented rural communities—areas where the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) estimated per an April 2016 report that only 43% of rural households have access to reliable broadband service. 

Other findings in the CETF 2016 Survey of Local Government Officials included:

  • 73% report broadband is very important to their jurisdictions’ small and large businesses
  • 53% report their low-income residents are not connected at home to broadband
  • 63% report broadband is a very important issue to residents
  • 57% report that schools are very able to provide computing devices and broadband in classrooms
  • 22% report that schools always allow students to take home computing devices to do homework
  • 65% report their jurisdiction would benefit greatly from telehealth-telemedicine technology and capabilities
  • 78% report broadband availability and speed are neither very high nor very low
  • 71% report their jurisdiction is fairly advanced in providing information and services online
  • 71% report their jurisdiction uses electronic communications quite often to reach residents
  • 55% report their workforce is prepared to use computing and Internet navigation skills to fill available jobs
  • 36% report that broadband is very adequate for public safety and emergency responses

“These findings provide further evidence that it is vital the Legislature pass the Internet For All Now Act, which CETF will promote in the next legislative session,” said Sunne Wright McPeak, President and CEO of CETF.  “This legislation is essential to replenish the California Advanced Services Fund, the only source of state assistance to close the Digital Divide in California and level the playing field for those excluded from our digital economy.”

Among the individual comments to the survey were:

Timothy Stearns, Mt. Shasta City Council Member (Siskiyou County):  “The State should provide matching funds to enable rural California cities to provide to residents, businesses, healthcare providers, schools, libraries and public safety providers Internet speeds comparable to what is available in metropolitan cities throughout this nation.”

Lee Adams, Sierra County Board of Supervisors Member:  “Every home in California with electricity should have broadband.”

Judy Morris, Trinity County Board of Supervisors Member:  “Please do not let rural California fall further behind in educational, health and economic development opportunities.”

John M. Vasquez, Solano County Board of Supervisors Member:  “Broadband is the highway of now and the future, it will not only bind the nation but the world.”

Peter Lacques, Fairfax Town Council Member (Marin County):  “We have a huge demand which our jurisdiction can’t fill due to capital costs.  We need a regional JPA to acquire and administer a fiber optic network for all our residents:

Jeffrey Collings, Mt. Shasta Mayor (Siskiyou County):  “Stop talking about it; actually do something.  Low population density towns that have high costs per household to rollout fiber need funds for a ‘down payment’ on our public private partnerships. About 30% from the State with the balance from the City will work. Private companies (ATT, cable, etc.) cannot and will not make this investment, as the breakeven is way too high relative to realistic take rates and prices for services. Do for broadband what government did for electricity; it's a utility subject to public regulation. Get it.”

Alan Peterson, Merced Union High School District Superintendent (Merced County):  “We need to provide Internet to all of our students so they can overcome social and geographical boundaries.”

John Huerta, Jr., Greenfield City Council Member (Monterey County):  “To Policymakers:  Please assist rural communities who do not have access to broadband for economic, educational and service upgrades for our growing communities. “

Benjamin Picard, Sunnyvale School District Superintendent (Santa Clara County):  “Broadband is a right and a necessity for an educated and competent electorate.”

About the California Emerging Technology Fund
The mission of CETF is to close the Digital Divide.  The overall goal is to reach 98% of all California residences with broadband infrastructure and to achieve 80% home broadband adoption by 2017 (with no region or demographic group less than 70% adoption).  CETF is technology neutral:  “broadband” is a generic term for high-speed Internet access—wireline and wireless Internet service is faster than a dial-up connection.   CETF drives to achieving these goals through public awareness and education, grantmaking to community organizations, and advancing public policy.  For more information, please visit

California Advanced Services Fund 2015 Annual Report

Page 2-3 of the Executive Summary of the California Advanced Services Fund 2015 Annual Report

Through the CASF Program, the CPUC continues to make steady progress toward closing the digital divide in California. As of December 31, 2015, there have been 52 CASF infrastructure project grants awarded and 27 completed. Together, the 52 projects are expected to provide broadband access to 301,574 unserved and underserved households combined. The 27 completed projects and 3 partially completed projects offer broadband service in their respective areas with a household subscribership of 3,923. The regional Consortia continue to advance initiatives aimed at increasing broadband deployment, access and adoption in the geographic regions they represent. Additionally, there were 86 public housing infrastructure grants approved affecting 5,678 units, and 19 adoption projects approved to provide digital literacy training to public housing locations with 3,152 residents.

The statutory goal of the program is to award funding by December 31, 2015 for projects that will provide broadband access to no less than 98% of California households. The CPUC considers an area served if broadband is available at speeds of 6 Mbps downstream and 1.5 Mbps upstream, or greater. Based on this definition of “served” availability, Table 1, below, shows that the 98 percent broadband access goal has been met for households located in urban areas, while only an estimated 43 percent of households in rural areas have access to broadband at served speeds. Statewide, an estimated 95 percent of households have access to wireline broadband at served speeds. Regarding mobile broadband, the majority of households in all areas of California do not have mobile services available at served speeds. Statewide, only an estimated 16 percent of households have access to mobile broadband at served speeds.

Read the full report




Big Disparities Persist in Californians' Access to Broadband Internet at Home, Even as More Are Going Online

Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA – August 1, 2016 – The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) in partnership with The Field Poll released results today of the statewide 2016 Annual Survey on Broadband Adoption in California examining who does and does not have broadband service at home in California. The Annual Survey found 84% percent of California households have a broadband connection at home. Among the 84% with a home high-speed Internet connection (referred to generically as “broadband”), 14% have a smart phone only, while 70% report having broadband Internet access through a computing device. The Annual Survey confirms that the most disadvantaged residents remain offline and “under-connected.”

Cost is by far the single biggest factor preventing those without Internet connectivity at home from going online. Of those without Internet access at home, three in four (74%) cite its expense or not have a computer or smart phone as a reason for not being connected, and 39% say this is their main reason. Only 2% of all residents are not interested in broadband service, confirming that the vast majority of Californians do want to participate in the digital world.

According to the Annual Survey, several California demographic groups have home broadband adoption rates that fall more than 10 percentage points below the overall adoption rate of 84%.

Read more

See accompanying Field Poll Charts