Rural Broadband: FCC Announces Major 5G Expansion Funding

The FCC this week announced a $9 billion 5G funding program to support high-speed connectivity in rural America.

The money is aimed at helping carriers build out 5G in hard-to-serve areas with low population density and in terrain that tends to block signals

Of the total, at least $1 billion has been set aside for 5G that supports precision agriculture.

“We must ensure that 5G narrows rather than widens the digital divide and that rural Americans receive the benefits that come from wireless innovation,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a statement.

The funding will be available through “reverse auction,” and it will replace the $4.5 billion Mobility Fund Phase II that was earmarked to expand 4G LTE service in rural parts of the country.

“The FCC also acknowledged an investigative report, which found that carriers were inflating their 4G LTE coverage maps,” according to a report on the tech site Engadget. “Microsoft came to this conclusion last year. Now, the Commission says it will take steps to make sure that, going forward, coverage data is accurate.”

In a press release, the FCC reported that agency personnel “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.”

This isn’t the FCC’s first time to invest heavily in expanding rural broadband access. Most recently, it approved another $137 million to bring high-speed internet to 36,579 homes and businesses over the next decade. That funding was part of the Connect America Fund Phase II.

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