The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week voted to seek further comment on the 5G Fund for Rural America.
In doing so, it lays the foundations for the FCC to advance the $9 billion fund to deploy 5G to rural areas.
Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, and Commissioners Carr and Starks approved the vote, while Commissioner Simington concurred, though disagreed with how the FCC proposes to allocate the money.
Following the vote, the FCC will now seek further comment on the 5G Fund for Rural America, as part of plans to connect some of the most rural areas of the US.
The FCC notes that it will make use of the "new and improved broadband coverage map," which shows that over 14 million homes and businesses lack mobile 5G coverage, as it looks to define the areas that will be eligible for support in the 5G Fund Phase I auction.
The FCC launched a pre-production draft of its National Broadband Map in November of last year. According to the FCC, these maps set out to provide specific location-level information about broadband service availability across the US.
The decision to create these maps was made to give people and businesses across the US the best information possible when choosing broadband providers.
As for the 5G Fund, it's a Universal Service Fund-supported program that was established in 2020 to distribute up to $9 billion to bring voice and 5G mobile broadband service to rural areas of the country unlikely to otherwise see the unsubsidized deployment of 5G-capable networks.
In a statement, the FCC said it wants to get feedback on a number of issues, such as whether to modify the $9 billion 5G Fund budget, how to best aggregate areas eligible for support to minimum geographic areas for bidding, and whether to make 5G Fund support available to areas in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands meet the eligible areas definition.
The regulator also seeks comment on whether the 5G Fund supports recipients to implement cybersecurity and supply chain risk management plans, plus if the 5G Fund should be used to encourage the deployment of Open RAN.
More funding needed to support 'rip and replace' program
Rosenworcel has reportedly warned that more money is required to support providers with the 'rip and replace' program.
As reported by Inside Towers, the FCC Chairwoman has stated that the program won’t be able to fully reimburse carriers for removing and replacing untrusted Huawei and ZTE gear from their networks.
The FCC has previously detailed a $1.9 billion reimbursement plan for the Huawei rip-and-replace scheme, but Rosenworcel said this isn't enough.
“The Commission has received its first reimbursement requests from participants and, unless a further funding source is identified, will only be able to provide forty cents on the dollar to those companies in reimbursement,” said Rosenworcel, who notes that there's a $3.08bn shortfall to fully reimburse participating carriers for removal, replacement, and disposal of the problematic equipment.