Rural areas prioritized in expansion of 5G wireless

White House and FCC announce $20.4 billion fund to extend 5G access to 4 million homes and businesses in rural communities.

Jacqui Fatka, Policy editor

April 15, 2019

3 Min Read
White House spring.jpg
Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks

The White House and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plan to invest in improving next-generation connectivity and access for rural Americans. Under the FCC 5G Fast Plan, President Donald Trump and FCC commissioner Ajit Pai announced the largest commercial spectrum auction in FCC history, freeing up more airwaves for the private sector to enhance quality of service and lay the foundation for networks of the future.

Trump said the Administration is working closely with federal agencies to get networks built in rural America faster and at a lower cost than they are today.

In a speech in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on April 12, Trump noted that “5G will be as much as 100 times faster than the current 4G cellular networks. It will transform the way our citizens work, learn, communicate and travel. It will make American farms more productive, American manufacturing more competitive and American health care better and more accessible. Basically, it covers almost everything, when you get right down to it. Pretty amazing.”

Trump said his Administration has been focusing on the need for broadband for rural America and farmers and noted that they “haven’t been treated properly.” He said rural areas will be given priority and will be the first areas to be covered by the 5G infrastructure.

Related:Lawmakers urge focus on rural broadband funding

Pai explained that 5G will improve Americans’ lives in so many ways, from precision agriculture to smart transportation networks to telemedicine, and more. 

“To help build the infrastructure of the future, the FCC aims to create a $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund headed by the agency,” Pai said. "This money will extend high-speed broadband to up to 4 million homes and small businesses in rural America. These next-generation networks will bring greater economic opportunity to America’s heartland, including some of the great jobs building infrastructure, and they will help support future 5G technologies."

The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund represents FCC’s single biggest step yet to close the digital divide. It will provide funding through a reverse auction to service providers that will deploy infrastructure to offer up to gigabit-speed broadband in parts of the country most in need of connectivity, FCC said.

Pai announced on April 12 that FCC intends to start its third 5G spectrum auction on Dec. 10, 2019. Since November 2018, FCC has auctioned 1,550 megahertz of spectrum to be used by commercial wireless providers for 5G connectivity. The third 5G spectrum auction will be the largest in American history; FCC will be selling 3,400 megahertz in three different spectrum bands at one time.

Related:USDA rolls out $600m in broadband funding

The Rural & Agriculture Council of America applauded the announcement, with council vice president Chris Skorupa noting that the $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will help underserved areas’ access to broadband over the next 10 years through a series of incentives intended to stimulate private-sector competition and investment in much-needed broadband infrastructure.

“These efforts demonstrate that private-sector competition, not government nationalization of networks, is the best path forward to stimulating local economies and bridging the digital divide in rural communities across America,” Skorupa said.

About the Author(s)

Jacqui Fatka

Policy editor, Farm Futures

Jacqui Fatka grew up on a diversified livestock and grain farm in southwest Iowa and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications, with a minor in agriculture education, in 2003. She’s been writing for agricultural audiences ever since. In college, she interned with Wallaces Farmer and cultivated her love of ag policy during an internship with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, working in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s Capitol Hill press office. In 2003, she started full time for Farm Progress companies’ state and regional publications as the e-content editor, and became Farm Futures’ policy editor in 2004. A few years later, she began covering grain and biofuels markets for the weekly newspaper Feedstuffs. As the current policy editor for Farm Progress, she covers the ongoing developments in ag policy, trade, regulations and court rulings. Fatka also serves as the interim executive secretary-treasurer for the North American Agricultural Journalists. She lives on a small acreage in central Ohio with her husband and three children.

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