Chairman Ajit Pai’s FCC on Thursday accomplished something former Chairman Tom Wheeler hoped to, but couldn’t when it unanimously voted to approve nearly $2 billion in funding for the Commission’s Mobility Fund Phase II program over the next decade.
The Order adopted by the Commission will provide $453 million in annual support for the next ten years to help expand and preserve 4G LTE coverage across some of the 575,000 square miles of rural America and Tribal lands that currently lack the service. The money will be awarded via an auction process to winning bidders to build out and maintain LTE in areas where the market can’t sustain or extend the service without government help. Funds will be distributed in monthly installments over the course of ten years of support, according to the FCC’s Order.
The Order pinpointed targeted areas of support as those that include any portion of a census block not fully covered by unsubsidized LTE with a minimum advertised download speed of 5 Mbps. Eligible areas will be identified using carrier-certified coverage data from Form 477, but the FCC’s Order noted a “robust challenge process” will be included to give interested parties the chance to submit additional data to the Commission before the eligible areas list is finalized. A preliminary map of eligible areas can be found here.
The FCC said the Mobility Fund Phase II auction will be a “market-based, multi-round” reverse auction, with bidding and performance assessed by square miles covered. The Auction process will reserve up to an estimated $34 million for LTE on eligible Tribal Lands.
Those receiving funding will have to build out to set service requirements set out in the Order, which include median data speeds of 10/1 Mbps, latency of less than 100 milliseconds, and rates comparable to urban areas.
Funding for “unnecessary” CETC support will be rapidly phased out under the Order, starting on the first day of the month following the close of the Phase II auction and ending fully after two years.
The three-member commission on Thursday also voted 2-1 to expand exemption from Title II reporting requirements to providers with 250,000 or fewer broadband connections. The FCC said its Order applies retroactively to January 17, 2017, when the enhanced reporting requirements kicked in due to a lapse in the exemption, and will extend forward for a five-year period.
Filed Under: Industry regulations