The bipartisan leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and communications and technology subcommittee today asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai for more details on his recent proposal for a $9 billion 5G Fund to replace the $4.5 billion Mobility Fund Phase II (MF-II), which is intended to support 4G LTE deployment to unserved rural areas.
In their letter, Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D., N.J.), committee ranking member Greg Walden (R., Ore.), communications subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D., Pa.), and subcommittee ranking member Bob Latta (R., Ohio) asked Chairman Pai to respond by Jan. 17 with the following information: what safeguards will be imposed to ensure that the coverage data used to determine which areas are eligible for support are reliable; how the FCC will determine which services are eligible for support; what performance benchmarks will be set to qualify for support; and what steps the FCC will take to ensure that new services are “sufficiently secure.”
Chairman Pai announced his proposal earlier this month (TR Daily, Dec. 4), stating that he would also propose that $1 billion be set aside to support 5G deployments that benefit precision agriculture. Funding would be distributed through a reverse auction, according to a senior FCC official who briefed reporters on background. The proposal would require a vote by the full Commission to be implemented.
In their letter, the lawmakers said, “[T]he recently announced 5G Fund must be allocated responsibly. The way that this fund is structured can make the difference between connecting unserved and underserved Americans or deepening the digital divide. Just this week, the House passed legislation to improve broadband mapping and the Senate has as well. This bipartisan, bicameral support clearly shows that the Commission must collect better data before moving forward on any fund.”
They also noted a recent FCC staff report indicating that the 4G LTE coverage maps submitted by Verizon Wireless, U.S. Cellular Corp., and T-Mobile US, Inc., as part of the effort to determine which areas should be eligible for support in the agency’s MF-II auction overstated their coverage and thus were not accurate.
“You have noted the need to focus funds to ‘support the networks of tomorrow,’ yet today’s services remain unavailable for too many Americans. This is unacceptable, and the design and execution of any new fund must be carefully constructed to succeed where MF II failed,” they added. “While the new fund will replace MF II, the goals of MF II remain unmet. As you move forward, it is critical that areas that lack 4G LTE coverage—or any connectivity—are not left behind in a rush to advance well intended efforts to deploy 5G.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
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