Although many people find it hard to believe, there are still large swaths of the United States that lack reliable broadband access. Given the promise of innovation that 5G brings, America can’t afford to let its digital divide get any worse. That’s why the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is launching a $9 billion fund to expand 5G access in rural parts of the country.
Dubbed the 5G Fund for Rural America, the money will be distributed over the course of 10 years to ensure that everyone can gain access to the new network.
5G is an extremely exciting technology for many reasons. Primarily, it offers incredible speeds that will enable countless innovations in the mobile computing world. However, its capacity might be even more exciting.
It could help 5G close the digital divide that was widened by 4G LTE. For the betterment of humanity, doing so should be a top priority in the coming years.
The new FCC funding is being divided into two phases, each with its own focus. Most of the money, $8 billion to be exact, is dedicated to the first phase. This portion of the plan will bring 5G networks to areas that need it most, including those without current access to 4G. Tribal lands are also an area of focus. Nearly $700 million has been earmarked for bidders targeting those lands.
The second phase focuses on precision agriculture. This is another hot topic in the tech world as more and more farmers are turning to things like robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to increase their yields. The remaining $1 billion, as well as any funds leftover from the first phase, will be dedicated to Phase II.
Across both phases, bidders who receive money from the new FCC fund will need to follow certain regulations. For instance, the networks provided need to deliver speeds of at least 35 Mbps.
The push to get reliable broadband connections into rural America took far longer than it should have. That’s partially thanks to carriers that inflated their 4G coverage maps to make it seem like they were providing more access than they were. However, things are finally moving in the right direction, in large part to the FCC and companies like T-Mobile.
The latter has a plan to deploy 5G coverage to 99 percent of Americans within six years. The promise came during negotiations surrounding its merger with Sprint earlier this year. On Tuesday, the FCC said that it is an “enforceable commitment to the Commission.”
How exactly the plan will be enforced if T-Mobile doesn’t follow through remains a mystery. Hopefully the carrier will pool its resources with those of Sprint and make good on its promise before anyone has to find out.
It is worth noting that the funds approved on Tuesday weren’t the first that the FCC has committed to making the internet more accessible. The Commission earmarked a separate $20.4 billion in January for the purposes of expanding broadband access to underserved areas.
However, thanks to the potential of 5G, the latest funding might be the most important yet.