Featured photo: Dr. Donald Outing, Vice President at Lehigh University
Like electricity before it, the future of the internet has the potential to reach nearly every single American, and more importantly, every single American student.
How does that become a reality?
This and other questions were discussed during the Bethlehem Area School District’s event “The Future of 5G Roundtable Discussion” held at the district’s Education Center on September 5, 2019 in partnership with T-Mobile and the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce.
Those in attendance included representatives from the business community; school districts such as Palisades and Parkland; Lehigh University and Moravian College; Service Electric, The Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce; and many more.
Experts on hand for the event included Clint DiPierro, Engineer from T-Mobile; Phil Witkowski, Director of St. Luke’s University Hospital Telemedicine; Dr. Carole Reese, VP for Planning and Research at Moravian College; and Marie Bachman, Chief Technology Officer for the Bethlehem Area School District.
The main topic of the day was 5G wireless internet and how to properly implement its future use to maximize the number of Bethlehem residents who are able to access the internet wirelessly or at all, especially school students.
The concept of a “digital divide” or the gulf between those who have ready access to computers and the Internet, and those who do not, is very real in rural areas as well as urban areas with less income or without proper technology to reach through dense building developments.
DiPierro and others lauded the technology, which will not only give greater internet speeds to those connected to it, but will also allow for an exciting variety of implementations. These include consumers connecting to Netflix, and students connecting to lessons, resources, and their work.
DiPierro said that T-Mobile is taking a “five-year approach” to 5G broadband. According to DiPierro, that means that they will be working with existing and new cell towers to work to provide low-bandwidth 5G at first, which can travel further, before moving into more sophisticated implementations of the technology.
Witkowski explained the vital importance of not only faster upload speeds, but also download speeds when it comes to telemedicine, which allows health care professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients at a distance using telecommunications technology.
While the benefits of 5G technology are exciting, they don’t help those who cannot connect to the internet itself, said Bethlehem Area School District Chief Technology Officer, Marie Bachman.
Bethlehem Area Superintendent Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Jack Silva, also expressed his concerns about connectivity.
“While all of these upcoming changes are exciting, we need to worry about now,” he said. “The fundamental issue is access to people in the community.”
The roundtable discussion’s intent was to begin or increase the amount of conversation around the impending implementation of 5G throughout the community. The Bethlehem Area School District is dedicated to working toward bridging the digital divide.