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Majors & Degrees

Madison, S.D. hopes to be model city with 5G

November 2, 2018

The Madison, S.D. city commission has approved a licensing agreement that one commissioner believes will be a model for other small cities hoping to upgrade to small cell communications technology.

Public Safety Commissioner Mike Waldner thinks the wireless communications facilities master license agreement approved on October 29 is an innovative way to incentivize companies to come to communities and provide the small cell technology needed in advance of 5G broadband technology.

Carriers such as Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, or AT&T “do not have to come to a city our size with this expanded technology,” Waldner pointed out. “If we as a city don’t incentivize it and partner with them, we can easily be overlooked.”

These small cells are needed before the next evolution of wireless technology – 5G – can be provided. “Without these small cells, 5G simply won’t happen,” Waldner said. Once in place, “this will entice businesses and economic development,” he stated.

Dr. Griffiths“Having 5G and small cell technology will be an attractor for businesses to come and locate because the infrastructure will be in place,” stated José-Marie Griffiths, president of Dakota State University, the technology-focused university in Madison. “The history is that businesses will locate to the cities where the best and strongest broadband capability exists.”

Griffiths predicts that IT-related businesses will locate in Madison for two reasons, “because we have the supply of technical personnel coming from DSU, and because the infrastructure would be right here for them to plug in and go to work.”

She told the five-member commission, “if we do move forward, [Madison] could be the first small city in the United States to have full coverage of 5G. We could become the model for the 86 percent of U.S. cities that have a population of fewer than 10,000.”

The commission unanimously approved the agreement which will allow providers to use city poles rent-free for five years; after five years, the licensee will pay the city $25 per year. The infrastructure could be in place by spring 2019, Waldner said, and would allow for improvements in many facets of community life, such as emergency response services. Utilities Commissioner Jeremiah Corbin noted that this was especially timely for the utilities department, as they have a number of systems – water, electric, load management, as well as system securities -- that could utilize the technology.

There are also applications for education and distance education, improving health care to better deliver care to serve patients in their homes, and with precision ag and robotic manufacturing, Griffiths stated. Waldner added, “and some DSU students are eager to get their hands on this and find new and innovative ways to help improve all of our lives.”

“All of this becomes capable with the 5G infrastructure,” Griffiths said, “but the infrastructure needs to come first so we can be ready when the services come.”

The 13-page agreement approved on October 29 is with Verizon, but Madison is offering the same opportunity for all companies. Waldner said “there will soon be a similar agreement with AT&T. For more information on the Madison agreement, contact 605-256-7500.