The FCC voted unanimously today to establish a fund for up to $9 billion in federal support for rural 5G buildouts and precision agriculture, but Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks each registered their concerns over progress on new wireless coverage maps.
The Report and Order adopted sets up the 5G Fund for Rural America that includes up to $8 billion in Universal Service Fund dollars to be awarded in the first phase of a multi-round reverse auction for 5G buildouts over 10 years.
These are focused on areas of the country that don’t have unsubsidized 4G LTE or 5G mobile service.
Of that, $650 million is allocated for providers that plan to serve Tribal lands.
Phase II provides $1 billion plus any unused money from the first round to build out 5G networks in support of precision agriculture. Any bidder that receives money from the 5G Fund agrees to establish 5G mobile broadband at speeds of at least 35/3 Mbps.
In January, the FCC committed $20.4 billion to bring high-speed broadband internet to underserved regions in America over the next 10 years.
The 5G Fund for Rural America was announced back in December, and today the FCC formally adopted the program.
NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association commended the Federal Communications Commission for actions taken at its monthly open meeting today to help close the digital divide by enhancing broadband connectivity efforts in rural and underserved areas of the country and accelerate the deployment of next-generation networks and infrastructure by streamlining regulatory state and local reviews.
“NATE continues to strongly support proposals to expand broadband to rural, unserved and underserved areas of the country, and commends the leadership of the Federal Communications Commission for bringing its 5G Fund for Rural America across the finish line,” said Jim Goldwater, NATE’s Director of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs.
The Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) also welcomed the FCC’s decision today.
“This decision is key to expediting wireless infrastructure deployment. Streamlining rules for collocation is crucial for emergency communications to ensure public safety and for the U.S. to remain competitive in the race to 5G,” said WIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein. “The FCC’s action today reduces barriers for sensible, limited expansions to existing tower
The Competitive Carriers Association applauded Tuesday’s vote.
CCA President and CEO Steven Berry commended the FCC for making the mapping process a priority.
“Updating the maps with more reliable data is an essential first step before distributing funds, and I applaud the FCC for today’s decision, which is in line with congressional direction and has overwhelming support in the record,” Berry stated. “We look forward to seeing the full details as they are made available, and CCA will continue to work with Congress to fully fund the Broadband DATA Act to better understand where support is needed and whether the budget is sufficient. All Americans, especially those in unserved and underserved areas, need and deserve access to mobile broadband services, and I commend the FCC for its focus on achieving this important goal.”