Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair Jessica Rosenworcel proposed relaunching a rural wireless broadband plan which would distribute up to $9 billion for 5G in underserved areas of the US.

The 5G Fund for Rural America was unveiled by the FCC in 2019, but Rosenworcel stated the new plan would be based on more granular data from the agency’s improved national broadband coverage map, which indicates more than 14 million homes and businesses in rural areas lacking 5G coverage.

In 2020, the FCC agreed rules to create the 5G Fund for Rural America by using a reverse auction process to allocate $9 billion from its Universal Service Fund, but decided to wait until the new broadband maps were created.

“For the first time in our history of supporting wireless networks through the universal service system, this agency has comprehensive data about where service is and is not all across the country,” Rosenworcel stated.  

If adopted by a vote of the full Commission, the proposed draft order would relaunch the 5G Fund for America.

An intial multi-round reverse auction would dish out up to $9 billion for voice and 5G broadband services “to rural areas of the country unlikely to otherwise see unsubsidised deployment” of compatible networks.

Rosenworcel stated the fund would also include up $900 million in incentives for incorporating open RAN in 5G networks.

The FCC stated a second order would cover several additional steps to improve the programme, including “modifying the definition of areas eligible for the auction and ensuring that areas in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands that meet the criteria would be included; increasing the budget for Phase I of the 5G Fund auction and the Tribal reserve budget, a set-aside portion of the fund to support connecting Tribal communities; and requiring 5G Fund support recipients to implement cybersecurity and supply chain risk management plans as a condition of receiving support”.