President Trump and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai are expected to announce the administration’s latest plans to ensure US leadership in 5G and expand high-speed broadband access to rural areas across the country.
On Friday morning, the FCC announced a new plan to roll out high-speed broadband to rural communities through the creation of the commission’s new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. According to the FCC, the fund will “inject” $20.4 billion into broadband networks to connect up to 4 million rural homes and businesses with high-speed broadband over the next decade.
“This is a critical tool towards closing the digital divide and will provide some of the critical infrastructure to connecting rural Americans with 5G technologies,” Pai said.
According to the FCC, the money for this new program will come from a “repurposing” of the Universal Service Fund, a system of subsidies intended to promote access to telecom services in underserved areas in the US. “It will be $2 billion approximately each year over the next decade to allocate ... this funding to rural carriers for the purpose of building out the broadband networks,” Pai said.
The specific details as to how this will work are unclear, but Pai said the commission intends to nail those down as the plan moves through the traditional rule-making process later this year.
Democratic commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wasn’t as optimistic as her Republican counterpart. “So far, this Administration’s interventions on 5G have done more harm than good,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “From imposing tariffs on 5G equipment to alienating allies on 5G security to falling behind the rest of the world on critical mid-band spectrum, the White House has yet to offer a workable plan for US leadership.”
“I hope today’s announcement offers better because our global leadership is at stake,” Rosenworcel continued.
Officials will also be unveiling the FCC’s next big 5G push, announcing the “largest spectrum auction in American history,” according to Pai. The FCC will be auctioning off three different bands of spectrum at the same time on December 10th.
“Overall, the story of 5G is a success story, an American success story, and we still need to do more and we will,” Pai said.