CHARLOTTE – Councilman Tariq Bokhari wants city leaders to consider what it would take to upgrade from 4G to 5G network infrastructure.
Bokhari, a financial technology executive who represents the SouthPark area on the council, said the implementation of 5G could make for great storylines, such as bridging the digital divide and closing gaps between urban and rural communities.
For Charlotte, it could also mean autonomous cars.
“If you want an autonomous vehicle to be able to come and be piloted here and operate, you can not have the option of freezing up and buffering when it’s at an intersection identifying the difference between a child and an open space,” Bokhari said during the Oct. 15 intergovernmental relations committee meeting. “This is the real time network and capability that to be honest, China as a country is absolutely silently crushing the entire world. This won’t get done without federal and state-level support.”
The intergovernmental relations committee discusses state and federal ideas that may bubble up to the council. Bokhari challenged staff during the committee meeting to determine the tools needed at the city level, such as land-use planning, to facilitate the conversation.
Councilman Braxton Winston was supportive of Bokhari’s idea. Winston said it’s important as the city moves forward with its comprehensive development plan and growing the town-within-a-town concept at Riverwalk.
“This is something that could be one of those fulcrums to get stuff done,” Winston said.
Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt said a request to pursue 5G infrastructure will fall on deaf ears if it doesn’t tie into what the rest of the state needs. Eiselt recalled attending a state transportation meeting in which members of other communities weren’t as receptive to the challenge Charlotte has in funding another light rail line.
Councilman Larken Egleston agreed that framing the request with the right language will make a difference.
“I imagine in Wadesboro talking about Charlotte piloting autonomous cars is not going to tug at a lot of heartstrings,” he quipped.
Egleston said the city should talk about wanting 5G infrastructure in terms of supporting North Carolina by improving economic mobility for rural and low income areas.
Bokhari also expressed the need for the city council to focus on veteran-owned businesses.
“Veterans have obviously and of late been a significant consideration and have had their own challenges in our own community and across the country,” Bokhari said. “Figuring out ways we can help promote opportunity for that group is something that obviously has enough merit to explore.”
Bokhari also described the issue of converting U.S. 74 into an interstate as a big-ticket item that Charlotte could partner with other municipalities across the state.