FCC OKs another $4.9 billion for rural broadband

The FCC has authorized an additional $4.9 billion in support over the next decade for maintaining, improving, and expanding affordable rural broadband for 455,334 homes ...

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The FCC has authorized an additional $4.9 billion in support over the next decade for maintaining, improving, and expanding affordable rural broadband for 455,334 homes and businesses served by 171 carriers in 39 states and American Samoa, including 44,243 locations on Tribal lands.

The support is targeted to smaller rural carriers, traditionally known as "rate-of-return" carriers. These carriers agreed this year to accept subsidies based on the FCC's Alternative Connect America Cost Model, or A-CAM. The homes and businesses are located in sparsely populated rural areas where the per-location price of deployment and ongoing costs of providing broadband service are high, requiring support from the FCC's Universal Service Fund to facilitate network improvements and keep rates reasonably comparable to those in urban areas.

In return for the support, carriers must maintain, improve, and expand broadband throughout their service areas, including providing service of at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream to more than 363,000 locations, including more than 37,000 locations on Tribal lands. Providers will be held accountable through an enforceable schedule for delivering improved and expanded service, with the first interim deployment obligation occurring in 2022.

"Our action today will help close the digital divide and is a win-win for rural Americans and taxpayers," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "Carriers get the predictable support they need to deliver broadband to their customers in these high-cost rural areas. And taxpayers, who fund this support through a fee on their phone bills, are getting more bang for their buck."        

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