Tester Fights to #ConnectMT with New Generation of Mobile Technology

Tester: ‘Can you give me a timeframe for when we’re going to get 5G service in the great state of Montana?’

(U.S. Senate) – In the race to develop a nationwide 5G wireless network, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is fighting to make sure rural America doesn’t get left behind.

“Can you give me a timeframe for when we’re going to get 5G service in the great state of Montana?” Tester asked Brad Gillen, Vice President of CTIA, during today’s Senate Commerce Committee hearing. “Do you anticipate the digital divide will get wider with the implementation of 5G?”

5G refers to the next generation of mobile wireless technology. Currently, most cell phones transmit calls and data through a 3G or 4G network. According to experts, 5G could be up to 100 times faster and open up endless new possibilities for cell phones, computers, and other technologies that rely on high-speed, wireless networks.

“In your testimony you spoke about how 5G can help with telemedicine and can help with smart farming,” Tester told Gillen. “Telemedicine has its greatest effect in rural areas. Farming doesn’t happen in downtown Cincinnati. If you’re going to have smart farming, you’ve got to have the infrastructure. And if the infrastructure is focused on the more populated areas, what do we have out there to help drive it to rural areas?”

Last Congress, Tester teamed up with Republicans and Democrats to get the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act signed into law. The bill will boost access to high-speed internet for Montana farmers and ranchers while instructing the Federal Communications Commission to develop ways to expand mobile wireless service in farming and ranching areas where it is currently unavailable.

Tester has been a vocal advocate for expanding broadband, cellular, and other wireless services throughout rural America, launching his #ConnectMT initiative in 2015 to address the connectivity issues facing businesses, schools, and families across the state. Since then, Tester has fought to maintain a free and open internet, brought high-speed internet to rural schools, got his Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act signed into law, and successfully pushed the FCC to expand wireless coverage to a large portion of Montana earlier this year.

In December, Tester helped secure $600 million to launch the ReConnect Program, a federal initiative to expand high-speed internet in rural communities across the country. Tester was the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to support funding for this new initiative. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will now administer grants to telecommunications companies, tribes, and local governments in communities with fewer than 20,000 residents. The first round of grants applications is due by the end of April 2019.