CCA CEO: FCC’s rural 5G fund proposal is ‘disappointing, inefficient’

CCA CEO: ‘Mobile broadband is an essential component of everyday life”

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) yesterday moved forward with   a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would establish a 5G Fund for Rural America, which proposes to distribute up to $9 billion through the Universal Service Fund. According to the FCC, the fund would bring the benefits of 5G, which some urban residents are already seeing, to those living in more rural areas. The Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), however, released a statement arguing that the two options presented by the FCC are “disappointing” and “inefficient.”

The two options laid out by the FCC are: 1) Hold an auction in 2021 by defining eligible areas based on current data sources that identify areas with the greatest need and prioritize funding to those areas; or 2) Delay the 5G Fund Phase I auction until after the collection and processing of mobile broadband coverage data has been improved through the Commission’s new Digital Opportunity Data Collection, which could push the auction back until 2023 or later.

While the CCA’s statement expressed appreciation for the FCC’s work in addressing the problem of rural connectivity, it also claims that the two options “offer a false choice and do not meet Congress’ directive in the recently-enacted Broadband DATA Act.”

“The FCC’s decision today is nothing short of disappointing,” said Steven K. Berry, president and CEO of CCA. “There is no reason why we should limit ourselves to two inadequate options; we can, and should, do both — collect reliable data and distribute much-needed funds to areas in-need. At a time when consumers and businesses are more dependent on broadband services than ever before, we should be exploring every option to accelerate deployment of mobile broadband as quickly as possible. Rather than limiting ourselves to two false options, the FCC should focus on updating their data collection in line with the parameters contained in the Broadband DATA Act, as directed by Congress.”

As part of the efforts to connect rural areas, the FCC required that T-Mobile commit to deploying its 5G network to 90% of rural Americans as a condition of receiving approval for the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, which was recently made official.

“In this day-and-age, mobile broadband is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but an essential component of everyday life,” Berry said.

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