Rural America has traditionally lagged behind the rest of the country when it comes to wireless access. Get far enough off the beaten track and wireless coverage pales in comparison to urban environments.
According to an announcement by the Federal Communications Commission, however, the 5G rollout may finally help close that gap. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai plans on establishing the 5G Fund to provide $9 billion to help carriers deploy 5G in rural areas, especially “areas with sparse populations and/or rugged terrain.” The fund will also use at least $1 billion for precision agricultural needs.
“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 Chairman Pai. “We want to make sure that rural Americans enjoy these benefits, just as residents of large urban areas will. In order to do that, the Universal Service Fund must be forward-looking and support the networks of tomorrow. Moreover, America’s farms and ranches have unique wireless connectivity needs, as I’ve seen across the country. That’s why I will move forward as quickly as possible to establish a 5G Fund that would bring next-generation 5G services to rural areas and would reserve some of that funding for 5G networks that promote precision agriculture. We must ensure that 5G narrows rather than widens the digital divide and that rural Americans receive the benefits that come from wireless innovation.”
If the FCC succeeds in narrowing the digital divide, it would be a boon for rural communities and households, where even wired high-speed internet lags behind. Widespread 5G access could open a world of economic possibilities for these areas.