Pennsylvania is home to the fourth-largest stateside population of Puerto Ricans, which continues to grow largely because of migration driven by natural disasters in Puerto Rico and expected to increase after the onslaught of recent earthquakes. The state’s Hispanic community is the fastest-growing segment of the population, accounting for more than 50% of Pennsylvania’s population growth in the last two decades. As this trend continues, it becomes even more important for the state’s leaders to ensure our communities have the tools they need to prosper, while also helping those who come to the state in need. It’s no doubt that accessibility to the next generation of wireless — 5G — will be one of the most critical of these tools as we move into 2020.
The coming decade promises even more advancements that will optimize businesses, streamline production and transportation, facilitate educational programs, and improve citizen services. But without reliable access to a network that can support these technologies, thousands of Pennsylvanians and millions of Americans will be left on the wrong side of the digital divide.
As the founder and executive director of the National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, I’ve made supporting innovation and businesses on the mainland United States and Puerto Rico one of my top priorities. So how do we ensure inclusive access to the 5G future? Governor Wolf’s Broadband Initiative is one positive step forward. But there’s more to be done, and we need a disruptive force to catalyze change. That’s why I support the pending merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, which would accelerate 5G innovation and increase competition in the wireless market.
Together, T-Mobile and Sprint are shaped to be that disruptive force. With complementary spectrum portfolios, T-Mobile and Sprint have a combined $40 billion investment in nationwide 5G networks and services. The newly formed “New T-Mobile” will help to close the digital divide across the country and drive inclusive 5G access, a concern close to the heart of legislators, local leaders, and businesses of all sizes.
Puerto Ricans increasingly need access to affordable and reliable high-speed connectivity to manage their businesses and reach customers; it’s worth noting that 4.4 million Hispanic-owned businesses contribute more than $700 billion to the U.S. economy every year. New T-Mobile will only add to the efforts to provide the connectivity they need. Within three years of the merger’s close, for example, the companies have promised to cover 97% of the country’s population and 85% of rural Americans.
By 2024, this new network will also have nearly twice the capacity of the combined stand-alone networks and three times the 5G capacity. As New T-Mobile seeks to fill this network capacity with users, it will continue to have an incentive to compete aggressively on price and quality of service against incumbent providers. In fact, T-Mobile has already announced that after the close of the merger, T-Mobile Connect’s low-cost services will reduce prices substantially.
In the spirit of better connecting the under-connected, New T-Mobile has announced other post-merger initiatives to better serve these communities, which will be especially advantageous to many of our established and newly arriving Puerto Rican constituents. After the merger, for example, New T-Mobile will launch Project 10 Million, aiming to end the homework gap by offering free service, hot spots, and low-cost devices to 10 million households and families over five years. The company has also signed one of the largest and most comprehensive memorandums of understanding with leading civil rights organizations, recommitting to investing in the communities it serves.
The Department of Justice and Federal Communications Commission have approved the merger, while 18 of the 19 required state public utility commissions have also acted favorably. As we are clearly now in the final stages of this merger, our communities are hopeful that the transaction can close quickly so that we can begin to realize many of these massive benefits across Pennsylvania, as well as for all American businesses and consumers.