The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Wednesday announced the launch of a $9 billion fund to accelerate 5G wireless for America's rural areas.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai said the fund will be available to carriers deploying advanced 5G mobile wireless services in hard-to-serve areas with sparse populations or rugged terrain -- something that's seen as key to minimizing the digital divide as 5G eventually becomes available.
"We must ensure that 5G narrows rather than widens the digital divide and that rural Americans receive the benefits that come from wireless innovation," Pai said in prepared remarks.
The FCC is also highlighting the fund as a way to support 5G connectivity in farming operations that utilize precision agriculture. The FCC plans to set aside at least $1 billion from the fund specifically for 5G deployments focused on precision agriculture needs.
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The 5G Fund will replace the previously planned Mobility Fund Phase II, which would have provided federal support for 4G LTE service in unserved areas. Carriers will be allocated money from the new fund through a reverse auction.
"5G has the potential to bring many benefits to American consumers and businesses, including wireless networks that are more responsive, more secure, and up to 100 times faster than today's 4G LTE networks," said Pai. "We want to make sure that rural Americans enjoy these benefits, just as residents of large urban areas will."