FCC Earmarks $450M over 10 Years for Rural Broadband, 4G-LTE and Voice Services

'Mobility Fund II' follows 2011 effort to preserve and extend access in underserved areas

Today, the FCC took steps to help expand and preserve 4G LTE mobile coverage across rural American and in Tribal lands by providing $453 million in annual universal service support through the FCC’s Mobility Fund Phase II for a period of ten years.

The Mobility Fund was created in 2011 to preserve and extend mobile broadband and voice services in unserved and underserved areas. Mobility Fund I offered providers up to $350 million in one-time funding to spur deployment of advanced wireless services in unserved areas, including Tribal lands. Despite that support and extensive 4G LTE deployment by industry, approximately 575,000 square miles either still lacks access to 4G LTE service or only has 4G LTE coverage because of universal service support. The rules adopted today help close that gap. 

The actions taken in the Order adopted today will:

Close Coverage Gaps Through a Mobility Fund II Auction

$453 million in annual support for winning bidders to preserve and extend 4G LTE in areas where the market can’t sustain or extend service absent government support.

A total of ten years of support, disbursed in monthly installments.

Target Areas Needing Support

Eligible areas include any portion of a census block not fully covered by unsubsidized 4G LTE coverage with a minimum advertised download speed of 5 Mbps.

Eligible areas to be identified using carrier-certified coverage data (Form 477).  A robust challenge process, the parameters of which will be determined by the Commission after consideration of comments received in response to the Further Notice included with today’s Order, will give all interested parties the opportunity to bring additional data to the FCC before the eligible areas list is finalized.

Adopt plans to rapidly phase out unnecessary legacy CETC support from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, commencing the first day of the month following the close of the auction, with unneeded CETC support ending after two years.

Set Service Requirements

Median data speeds of 10/1 Megabits per second (Mbps).

Latency of less than 100 milliseconds (ms).

Rates that are reasonably comparable to urban rates.

Establish an Auction Framework

Funding distributed through a market-based, multi-round reverse auction.

Bidding and performance assessed by square miles covered.

Oversight and accountability provisions to provide financial security and protect against default.

Reserves up to an estimated $34 million of the total $453 million of annual support for 4G LTE on eligible Tribal lands.

Today’s action is crucial to further the Commission’s goal of providing seamless consumer access to robust mobile broadband and voice services across the country, where consumers live, work and travel.

Action by the Commission February 23, 2017 by Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FCC 17-11). Chairman Pai, Commissioners Clyburn and O’Rielly approving and issuing separate statements.


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