FCC’s $9B Rural 5G Fund Insufficient; Hides Poor State of Broadband Deployment

Yesterday, the FCC announced a plan to launch a $9 billion 5G fund for rural America. The plan would allocate funding from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund to support carriers deploying 5G wireless networks in rural areas. The plan would also terminate the FCC’s current mechanism to fund 4G deployment after the agency found several carriers had significantly overstated their actual coverage and misrepresented the actual on-the-ground experience of their users.

Statement of Michael Copps, Former FCC Commissioner and Common Cause Special Adviser

“With its latest announcement to deploy 5G in rural America, the FCC continues its smoke and mirrors show to cover up the poor state of broadband deployment in the nation.

“First, many parts of the country – both urban and rural – lack 4G or any type of wireless connectivity at all. The FCC has systematically failed to address the wireless broadband needs of many communities but chooses to put the cart before the horse with another announcement on 5G.

“Second, the FCC buries the real story in its announcement – wireless carriers have greatly exaggerated their coverage maps, helping paint an inaccurate picture of who has access to broadband. The FCC has known the maps have been bad for quite some time but chose to do nothing. Even with its latest findings that carriers lied about coverage maps, the FCC has not leveled any fines or held the companies accountable in any way. This points to a larger problem regarding the FCC’s failure to provide the public with granular and accurate broadband maps. If we can’t even determine who does and does not have access to broadband, we can’t sufficiently close the digital divide.

Third, the agency is seemingly not providing any new funding to deploy 5G. Rather, it is terminating the current funding mechanism to deploy 4G only to open a new one for 5G. Moving a pot of money around shows that the FCC lacks a clear strategy and vision to deploy 5G nationwide. It is these kinds of zig-zags and diversions on broadband that make our country such an outlier when it comes to broadband penetration.”

To  view our latest comments discussing how the FCC can improve the state of broadband availability, click here.