FCC chairman Ajit Pai (pictured) is set to prioritise plans to redirect $25 million worth of subsidies from areas where high-quality commercial services exist into rural broadband projects during his first open meeting in the role.
Discussing the agenda of the 23 February meeting, Pai said the Federal Mobility Fund spends $25 million subsidising wireless services where private networks already exist. He described the approach as “a textbook definition of waste” and said the money would be better spent connecting areas without 4G coverage.
Once the money is released, Pai suggested a “competitive reverse auction” to allocate the funds to specific projects.
The FCC committee is set to vote on the measures during the meeting, alongside finalising rules for the allocation of money from the government’s Connect America Fund – totaling almost $2 billion – a project outlined in May 2016 to develop rural broadband services across the country.
Writing in his official blog, Pai said: “I’ve talked a lot about the need to promote digital empowerment: to enable any American who wants high-speed Internet access, or broadband, to get it. To further that purpose, the Commission will consider two separate orders to spur the buildout of mobile and fixed broadband networks in rural America.”
Pai, who was appointed chairman of the FCC in January, added: “My aim is to get the best deal for the American people with the universal service dollars we have available.”
The new FCC chairman’s focus on rural connectivity echoes concerns raised by his predecessor Tom Wheeler, who in September pledged to take action to boost LTE coverage in the US.