If you want to get ahead in today’s economy, or even if you just want to tread water, you need to have a good broadband connection. Cut the cord, you say? Just watch Netflix or Amazon Prime and the like? You still need a strong broadband connection to do so, and that can cost $100/month or even more. Cancel your newspaper subscription and read your news on websites? Same problem and same need.
Frustration enters when you read about cities that have their own private broadband service, or when you hear about a new city that has partnered to install Google Fiber, their ultra-fast and ultra-cheap broadband service. Why can’t your city or neighborhood help itself by providing faster broadband service? This article from Fast Company magazine addresses some of the reasons why. They are summarized here as follows:
- Laying Cable: At this time (more on this later), internet service providers (isp’s) still need to lay cable in order to provide service. Laying cable is old technology and it is expensive. Cable can be installed only by either stringing it from above-ground power poles or by digging ditches. Ditches can be very expensive, especially in urban areas, so it may not make economic sense. Poles may be prohibitive for another reason:
- Poles are controlled by existing isp’s: If an existing cable tv or telephone company owns or controls the power pole, it is unlikely to allow a competitor to use the pole without extracting an exorbitant fee. Then there is the issue of politics and regulation:
- Existing ISP’s are politically well-connected: Cable companies as you know are mini- or local-monopolies and those companies spend a lot of money in the political arena in order to maintain those monopolies. Any new “candidate of change” out there to slash these monopolies faces a steep uphill battle.
So, if you are currently serviced by Comcast, for instance, and you are hoping to switch to Spectrum, for instance, because they have superior or less expensive internet access or superior programming (i.e., the LA Dodgers), unfortunately that day is not coming any time soon. Get used to your current ISP, unless……
The Fast Company article does not address the new technology out there that could upend the entire world of ISP’s, and that is 5G, or 5th Generation cellular mobile communications. The only way to end-run around the cable conundrum is to provide the same level of service through the air, without ever having to lay cable. 5G offers this promise. I have written before that 5G will be a game-changer, and the promise of access for all people to high-speed internet without the cost and legal difficulties of laying cable is why 5G will be a game changer. 5G, if and when it is properly implemented, will significantly improve the efficiency of the US economy and could unleash a new era of growth and entrepreneurship.
How to Play 5G
Unfortunately, it is hard to find a “pure play” 5G stock. All of the companies that are investing heavily into 5G are existing companies with current businesses. Nevertheless, this article from Seeking Alpha offers some suggestions, with Verizon, Nokia, Ericsson, Qualcomm, Samsung, and Apple among them. I am not recommending any of these stocks, but the article is food for thought.
We are currently beholden to old technology (cable isp’s), but the future will be in 5G, unless 5G is not properly implemented. See: Political pressure. I believe 5G will eventually be the alternative to existing cable, but it may take a lot longer to implement.