FCC to Launch $9 Billion Fund for Improved 5G Rural Connectivity in the U.S.

It will replace the $4.5 billion Mobility Fund Phase II created to subsidize 4G LTE in rural areas.
Fabienne Lang

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said on Wednesday that it will scrap the $4.5 billion subsidy program for 4G LTE in rural areas of the U.S., and instead set up a $9 billion 5G fund to support rural high-speed connectivity. 

There are still large parts of the States that are rugged and rural, which makes 5G connectivity trickier. 

At least $1 billion of the fund will be set aside for 5G to support precision agriculture. 


The FCC's plan

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

The news of the switch in connectivity plans comes after a year-long investigation, which concluded that carriers were inflating their 4G LTE coverage maps. 

In a press release, the FCC stated "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."

Pai followed on to say that the 5G fund is meant to ensure that rural America is not left behind

By allocating at least $1 billion to precision agriculture and technologies, the aim is to improve the accuracy that's required when growing crops and raising livestock. 

Connecting rural America

Regardless of the billions of dollars provided by private investment and government subsidies, rural sections of the U.S. still remain embarrassingly badly-connected. An FCC report stated that around 39% of rural Americans still have no access to high-speed internet, which is a stark comparison to just 4% in urban areas. 

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Given the widespread expanse and rugged terrain in many parts of the nation, setting up internet connection has proven to be very tricky, and expensive. The biggest issue, however, is the amount of effort required to connect these regions when the population density is so low. 

If there aren't enough people to pay for broadband, then providers are unwilling to make the effort. 

The newly installed fund may see an end to low connectivity across rural parts of the U.S.

See Also: 5G to Drive Sales of Smartphones, High-End Computers