Feature Article

October 08, 2012

FCC Funds Wireless Carriers to Close Mobility Gaps

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is spending $300 million to build wireless 3G and 4G connections across 83,000 miles of road in 31 states where there are gaps in mobile service. Reports indicate that this mobility funding went to both large and small wireless operators.

In fact, the wireless carriers obtained the Mobility fund money via participation in a reverse auction, in which 38 companies and their subsidiaries submitted almost 900 bids. The winning companies promised the lowest cost-per-mile in infrastructure build out. 

Image via Shutterstock

According to this report, the U.S. Cellular won $30 million to cover more than 1,700 miles of road, while Allied Wireless obtained over $45 million to build wireless connectivity on more than 4,400 miles of road. Most of the winners were small, rural providers.

The report shows that the $300 million in funding was made available by the FCC through savings in reforms to the Universal Service Program that was finalized late last year. Also, the first phase of this auction marks the first time FCC designated universal mobile service as a policy goal. 

According to FCC, winners ranged from larger national carriers like T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular to smaller carriers like Pine Belt Cellular, Inc. in Alabama, and VTel Wireless, Inc. in Vermont. FCC expects millions more in private investment to complement the auction funding.

While this auction is the first step in the Commission’s new effort to provide support to accelerate deployment, the second phase will provide an additional $50 million for tribal lands support and $500 million per year to pay for mobile services.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement, “For too many, dead zones in mobile Internet coverage are too common – and today’s winners will help the U.S. close those gaps. But today’s real winners are the American people, millions of whom will soon have greater access to the job, education and healthcare opportunities of America’s world-leading mobile economy. Over the last few years, the U.S. has regained global leadership in mobile innovation – and today’s successful auction will help our nation maintain that leadership in the 21st century.”

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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