The Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday it will scrap a $4.5 billion 4G LTE subsidy program for rural areas and instead provide $5 billion in 5G subsidies. Fcc Chairman Ajit Pai said the new fund will help operators deploy 5G in sparsely populated and unattaable areas. The move follows a year-long investigation that found that some of the funding for the Mobility II program was not clear enough and decided to launch a new program focused on next-generation wireless technology.
(From: FCC, via Cnet)
Some policy experts worry that rural Americans will be excluded from 5G. But Ajit Pai says the money will ensure rural areas don’t fall behind 5G and are committed to bridging, rather than increasing, the digital divide so that everyone can benefit from wireless innovation.
It is reported that a key application of 5G in rural areas is to provide connectivity support for technologies such as precision agriculture to improve the precise control of crops and livestock. The FCC will allocate at least $1 billion of it to meet the 5G deployment needs of Precision Agriculture.
Previously, rural areas of the United States had been severely delayed by broadband access. Despite billions of dollars in private investment and government subsidies, the status quo remains disturbing.
According to the FCC’s 2016 report, about 39 percent of rural people do not have access to high-speed broadband. By contrast, only 4% of the urban population does not have access to high-speed broadband.
Clearly, the cost of building a network in rural America is so high that some operators have almost abandoned some of the markets.
In the mountains, for example, where it is frozen all year round, it is difficult to install infrastructure for them. The bigger problem is that in areas with lower population densities, it is more difficult for companies to recover their investment costs.
The good news is that the FCC’s newly announced 5G fund will replace the Mobility II phase project with a reverse auction, providing federal funding to operators to complement market shorts in previously underserved regions.
“5G delivers many benefits to U.S. consumers and businesses, making it more responsive, secure, and wireless than current 4G LTE networks,” Ajit Pai said in a statement. I hope that rural residents will enjoy these benefits as well as in large urban areas.”