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FCC backs $9bn fund for rural 5G

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – the agency of US government that regulates 5G and other comms in the country – is moving ahead with plans to create a $9bn fund to get rural areas of the country connected to next gen networks.

The announcement was made by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who circulated a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the 5G Fund for Rural America. 

“To balance our policy goal of efficiently and quickly redirecting high-cost support to areas where it is most needed with our obligation to ensure that we have an accurate understanding of the extent of nationwide mobile wireless broadband deployment,” Pai said in a blog post. “We seek public input on two options for identifying areas that would be eligible for 5G Fund support.”

Two main phases

“The 5G Fund for Rural America focuses on building out 5G networks in areas that likely would otherwise go unserved."

Ajit Pai, FCC.

The announcement recommends that up to $9 billion in Universal Service Fund (USF) support be allocated in two phases (with phase one front-loaded with $8bn of investment over the next decade).

“5G promises to be the next leap in broadband technology, offering significantly increased speeds and reduced latency,” said Pai. “The 5G Fund for Rural America focuses on building out 5G networks in areas that likely would otherwise go unserved. It’s critical that Americans living in rural communities have the same opportunities as everybody else.”

The FCC is currently seeking comment on two phases for identifying areas that would be eligible for 5G Fund support, which the statement listed as the following:

Under one approach for Phase I, the Commission would hold an auction in 2021 by defining eligible areas based on current data sources that identify areas as particularly rural and thus in the greatest need of universal service support. 

The second approach would delay the 5G Fund Phase I auction until at least 2023, after collecting and processing improved mobile broadband coverage data through the Commission’s new Digital Opportunity Data Collection. Phase II of the 5G Fund would target support to bring wireless connectivity to harder to serve and higher cost areas, such as farms and ranches.

The proposed fund will help to ensure that 5G services are developed in rural areas of the country, which would otherwise be overlooked for financial reasons. And the FCC is considering the two phases listed above as a way to allocate resources to the places with the greatest need for 5G.


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Dan is a British journalist with 20 years of experience in the design and tech sectors, producing content for the likes of Microsoft, Adobe, Dell and The Sunday Times. In 2012 he helped launch the world's number one design blog, Creative Bloq. Dan is now editor-in-chief at 5Gradar, where he oversees news, insight and reviews, providing an invaluable resource for anyone looking to stay up-to-date with the key issues facing 5G.