Last week, the Alabama Senate – working across the aisle and across our Alabama communities – voted unanimously in favor of SB 172, legislation that standardizes the deployment of small cells, advanced wireless infrastructure, in Alabama.

In today’s world, wireless infrastructure is a critical piece of the economic development puzzle. And, our State must take action to ensure Alabama consumers and businesses have access to the mobile networks they demand, and – more importantly – they deserve.

To meet the demand for everything wireless with connections, anytime, anywhere, AT&T and other wireless providers are enhancing our networks in states across the nation through the deployment of small cells – antennas about the size of a pizza box that improve the speed and quality of our wireless networks today, support 5G and prepare for future technologies.

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Local governments are instrumental in our Alabama communities, and SB 172 in no way impedes local government oversight. The legislation simply removes unnecessary barriers to deployment and provides common-sense standards for small cell placement in the public Rights-Of-Way (ROWs) – standards similar to the control local governments have over facilities for electric, sewer, water, cable and wireline telecommunications. SB 172, sponsored by Senators Arthur Orr and Clay Scofield, provides local governments management of small cell placement, aesthetics, height and how the facilities are connected. Additionally, local governments are also able to deny a small cell application for numerous reasons, including public noncompliance with applicable codes, noncompliance with height restrictions and spacing requirements, noncompliance with historic district requirements and more.

Through no small effort from Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama legislature, our State is one of the most attractive places to live, work, do business and visit. To help ensure Alabama is prepared for continued growth and future success, AT&T and other wireless providers are supporting this essential piece of legislation and encouraging the Alabama House of Representatives to favorably consider SB 172, helping bring the many benefits of enhanced wireless technologies to our State.

Smart policies – like SB 172 – pave the way for increased investment in our Alabama communities. From a pure economic standpoint, Alabama can expect $4 billion in investment, $18.1 billion in consumer benefits from 5G services as well as 7,067 additional jobs per year.

Our neighbors in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida and Arkansas are not sitting still.

They are among the 28 states that have already enacted legislation similar to SB 172, competitively positioning themselves to welcome investment and spur wireless deployment.

We must act now. With a clear path to small cell deployment, Alabama can take a significant step forward to ensuring our State does not fall further behind.

Wayne Hutchens is the president of AT&T Alabama