FCC Chairman Ajit Pai intends to establish a fund that would make up to $9 billion in Universal Service Fund support available for the deployment of 5G in rural America. The money will be allocated through a reverse auction, targeting hard-to-serve areas with sparse populations and/or rugged terrain. At least $1 billion will be set aside for deployments facilitating precision agriculture needs.
“We want to make sure that rural Americans enjoy [5G] benefits, just as residents of large urban areas will. In order to do that, the Universal Service Fund must be forward-looking and support the networks of tomorrow.” said Chairman Pai. “Moreover, America’s farms and ranches have unique wireless connectivity needs, as I’ve seen across the country. That’s why I will move forward as quickly as possible to establish a 5G Fund that would bring next-generation 5G services to rural areas and would reserve some of that funding for 5G networks that promote precision agriculture.”
The 5G Fund would replace the planned Mobility Fund Phase II, which currently provides federal support for 4G LTE service in unserved areas.
NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway said in a prepared statement, “This new fund is great news for NATE member contractors who will be playing a major role working alongside the wireless carriers to deploy the infrastructure, equipment and technology essential to enabling next-generation connectivity to all corners of the United States.”
The Mobility Fund Phase II rules required wireless providers to submit 4G LTE coverage data in order to help the Commission target federal subsidies to unserved parts of the country, but the commission has found that the 4G LTE coverage data sets submitted by providers are not sufficiently reliable.
The FCC staff conducted thousands of speed tests to measure network performance and concluded that the MF-II coverage maps submitted by certain carriers likely overstated each provider’s actual coverage and did not reflect on-the-ground experience in many instances.
The staff report recommends that the commission audit the coverage filings of carriers and take additional steps to make sure that coverage data the Commission and the public rely on is accurate.