The Federal Communications Commission is seeking further comment on its effort to connect more Americans with a 5G network, with a goal of better using its updated coverage map to dole out needed funds.
The FCC released a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to “refresh the record” for the 5G Fund for Rural Americans to provide more support for areas with limited connections and resources. It will also look into extending the program to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which meet the standards for eligibility but are currently outside the program’s scope.
The proposal also explores whether funding recipients should be required to agree to “implement cybersecurity and supply chain risk management plans” to win bids.
While it isn’t perfect, the FCC’s updated broadband coverage map shows more than 14 million homes and businesses need mobile 5G coverage. The commission requests further comment to identify eligible areas for financial support during the 5G Fund’s Phase I auction. It proposes a modification to the standards used to accept bids to prioritize households in rural America, directing necessary funds to areas that need it most.
The 5G Fund is a Universal Service Fund-supported program that has served as a lifeline, connecting people with 5G in areas where they might not have otherwise gotten service. It has contributed $9 billion to expand 5G mobile broadband to remote parts of the U.S. that are likely to be overlooked for unsubsidized deployment of 5G-capable networks.
“The 5G Fund will help ensure that rural Americans enjoy the same benefits from our increasingly digital economy as their urban counterparts,” the FCC said of the program.
Running network lines to remote locations takes up a lot of time and expenses, creating a hefty obstacle in bringing the entire country online. For instance, remote areas in Montana are estimated to cost $300,000 per connection. Providers are focused on connecting more densely populated cities, which bring more people online while reducing infrastructure construction costs.
While the preferred internet connection source is fiber, many Americans are looking to 5G, which can cover vast distances and don’t require digging up sidewalks to lay down wiring, as a faster, more convenient option.