The T-Mobile, Sprint merger will benefit rural America

For years, my colleagues and I who represent rural California have fought to bring equal access to technology to our communities, but we are continually overlooked. Now things can be different thanks to a new opportunity in the wireless industry our state leaders and regulators should support.

T-Mobile and Sprint are in the process of seeking resolution of a historic merger that will bring access to superior broadband service throughout California, including for the first time to towns in my district. That’s because T-Mobile plans to build a massive 5G network with speeds of 100 Mbps brought to 99 percent of California’s population by 2024, with over 90 percent exceeding 300 Mbps by 2024. This will transform the lives of consumers and business owners throughout California, but especially in rural areas.

In addition, T-Mobile has made nearly 50 commitments as part of the merger –– just for California –– that include enhanced emergency preparedness and response, support for closing the digital divide, an increase in jobs, and lower prices.

Twenty-one million American households lack access to affordable high-speed internet, and nearly 80 percent of those households are in rural communities. Why is this important? As technology develops at a faster and faster rate, data-based services are critical to our daily lives. Our economy runs on data.

As a third-generation farmer from Lassen County, my family and I know firsthand that access to high speed data is vital to compete in the 21st century. Simply put, if you can’t access data, you’re at a severe economic disadvantage, but this merger has the potential to change all that.

Unfortunately, thousands of Northern Californians have lost their homes due to catastrophic wildfires. Fairgrounds were critical to the rescue, response and evacuation efforts during those events, yet many lacked the broadband capacity necessary to support those functions. T-Mobile has committed to provide continuous 5G coverage to 10 state fairgrounds that today suffer from the slowest speeds.

T-Mobile has also committed to increase its inventory of temporary wireless equipment used to provide backup service when permanent infrastructure is impacted by natural disasters. Together, these commitments will help provide the support both first responders and residents need in an emergency, creating a safer California for us all.

For low income Californians, T-Mobile has committed to indefinitely continue the state’s LifeLine program and has pledged $35 million to fund programs designed to increase digital literacy and inclusion for students, schools, parents, and community organizations.

When I ran for office, I promised to fight for our district. I support this merger because it will bring amazing opportunities to our area, including by creating real competition in the wireless and cable marketplace, adding jobs to the economy, enabling super-fast affordable internet, and helping to meet the challenges caused by natural disasters. I call on our state leaders and regulators to support this merger so we don’t lose the many benefits it will bring to California.