FCC plans $9 Bn 5G Fund for rural America

FCC Chairman Pai has circulated a draft Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to his colleagues that would establish a $9 billion 5G Fund for rural America.

FCC would complement the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, a $20 billion effort to bring fixed broadband services to millions of unserved rural homes and businesses. The Commission will vote to propose rules for the 5G Fund at its April 23 Open Meeting.

The 5G Fund would take the place of the Commission’s previous plans to establish a Mobility Fund Phase II, which would have funded 4G LTE in rural areas unserved by 4G LTE. The Commission paused the Mobility Fund Phase II process due to inaccuracies in wireless carriers’ reported coverage areas.

The 5G Fund would be a Universal Service Fund program subject to all the rules and regulations that apply to USF programs, including the Commission’s supply chain security rules.

The 5G Fund would allocate funding through a two-phase, multi-round reverse-auction format to encourage competition and ensure that Americans are connected in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

In Phase I, the FCC would target at least $8 billion of support to rural areas of our country that would be unlikely to see timely deployment of 5G service. In Phase II, the FCC would target universal service support to bring wireless connectivity to harder to serve and higher cost areas, such as farms and ranches, and make at least $1 billion available specifically aimed at deployments that would facilitate precision agriculture.

The 5G Fund would target funding to areas that need Universal Service Fund support for 5G. The FCC proposes to incorporate a Tribal lands preference into the auction. Specifically, the Fund would reserve up to $680 million of the proposed $8 billion Phase I budget for eligible areas in Tribal lands, and the FCC would consider those bids separately from the rest of the budget.

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