Photo 280368384 © Retrosesos |

FCC Chairwoman Wants to Move Ahead with Rural Wireless Broadband Plan

March 25, 2024
With a new coverage map, the proposed new rules would relaunch the 5G Fund for Rural America.

The FCC wants to relaunch its 5G Fund for Rural America. If enacted it would allocate nine billion dollars to expand 5G access to rural areas.

The program was originally set to launch after agreeing on rules back in 2020, but at the time it was determined that the coverage map data was insufficient. This time, however, they say improvements have been made and it is ready to relaunch.

The improved coverage map identified over 14 million rural homes and business lacking 5G mobile coverage.

“For the first time in our history of supporting wireless networks through the universal service system, this agency has comprehensive data about where service is and is not all across the country,” said Chairwoman Rosenworcel. “This will be the foundation of our plan to expand the 5G service in rural America to where it is needed most—where people live, work and travel.”

The 5G Fund Phase I multi-round reverse auction would distribute up to $9 billion to bring voice and 5G mobile broadband service to rural areas of the country unlikely to otherwise see unsubsidized deployment of 5G-capable networks. Additionally, to promote the deployment of Open Radio Access Network technology (Open RAN) and its benefits for competition, national security, and supply chain reliability, the 5G Fund would include up to $900 million in incentives for incorporating Open RAN in 5G Fund-supported networks.

The auctions will be based on the mobile coverage data obtained in the Broadband Data Collection and reflected on the FCC’s National Broadband Map. To ensure that the Phase I auction reflects the most accurate data possible regarding areas in need of 5G service, "parties are encouraged to promptly file challenges through the Broadband Data Collection mechanism where appropriate," said the press release.

The Second Report and Order circulated today would take a number of steps to improve the program, including: modifying the definition of areas eligible for the auction and ensuring that areas in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that meet the criteria would be included in the 5G Fund auction; increasing the budget for Phase I of the 5G Fund auction and the Tribal reserve budget—a set-aside portion of the fund to support connecting Tribal communities; and requiring 5G Fund support recipients to implement cybersecurity and supply chain risk management plans as a condition of receiving support.

About the Author

ISE Staff