The mayor of Chattanooga, Tenn., pushed back today on the notion that 5G wireless services hold the key for rolling out big “smart-cities” technology improvements, and instead said his city’s gigabit fiber network can handle the job just fine.

Mayor Andy Berke’s message comes with one important qualification attached:  it helps if your city owns its own network rather than rely on traditional providers for connectivity–an advantage that many if not most cities don’t enjoy.

Speaking at an event organized by Axios, Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association, not surprisingly led the cheering section at for adoption of smart-city services and the technology and applications that support them, including 5G wireless.

“Cities are laboratories for the country,” he said, adding, “It’s up to cities to figure out what they want.” But he suggested that services related to easing transportation accessibility and bottlenecks, and cutting pollution by cutting energy consumption, should be big hits with city planners.

And he pounded home the point that none of those services will be possible without dense and ubiquitous internet connectivity.

“What do you need? 5G,” he said.  “That’s how cities are going to get there.”

Mayor Berke offered a different path to the smart-cities destination, saying that the robust broadband fiber network his city built and operates has created the “smartest, cheapest Internet service in the world.”

“5G wireless is different for us…We have to grapple with the policy issues of 5G,” he said, and explained city concerns including infrastructure siting issues and dealing with vendors that want to access “our rights of way.”

He added, “It’s appropriate for us to be skeptical about what companies are going to do with all that data” they collect from third party-provided 5G services.

Asked what his message was for Federal law makers in Washington, Berke replied, “What works in Chattanooga is different that what works in New York City.”

“People say there are privacy problems,” with all the consumer data generated by more smart city applications, Shapiro said, adding, “Of course there are privacy problems…But we can put guidelines around that.” He added that Federal lawmakers should steer away from “one-size-fits-all” regulatory solutions for 5G services.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs