FCC Seeks Comment on How to Proceed with the 5G Fund for Rural America

In October of 2020, the Commission adopted a Report and Order establishing the 5G Fund for Rural America (“5G Fund”), which makes up to $9 billion available to bring 5G mobile broadband service to rural areas.1 With the completion of the National Broadband Map in May of 2023, the Commission is preparing to roll out its plans for the 5G Fund, and in a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking,2 is seeking comment on a limited number of issues that are critical to the 5G Fund’s success.

Specifically, the Commission is seeking comment on:

1) How to define areas eligible for 5G Fund support, and whether to exclude from eligibility areas where there is an unsubsidized 4G LTE broadband service, and what the appropriate 4G LTE and 5G speed thresholds should be;

2) Whether to modify the 5G Fund budget, in lieu of the fact that the Commission will utilize a reverse auction to distribute funds;

3) What geographic metric should be used for bidding purposes in a 5G auction;

4) Whether there should be a minimum geographic area for bidding;

5) What metric should be used to measure a 5G Fund support recipient’s compliance with its public interest obligations and performance requirements;

6) The schedule that should be adopted for transitioning from mobile legacy high-cost support to 5G Fund support;

7) A proposal to require each 5G Fund Phase 1 auction applicant to certify that it has read and has familiarized itself with the public notice adopting procedures for the auction;

8) Whether to require 5G Fund support recipients to implement cybersecurity and supply chain risk management plans (as is required for Enhanced ACAM recipients); and

9) Whether the 5G Fund could be used to encourage the deployment of Open RAN.

Comments are due by October 23, 2023, and Reply Comments are due by November 21, 2023.
Please contact Dee Herman at [email protected], Greg Whiteaker at [email protected] or Shannon Forchheimer at [email protected] if you would like to file comments or discuss this greater detail.

[1] Establishing a 5G Fund for Rural America, GN Docket No. 20-32, Report and Order, 35 FCC Rcd 12174 (2020).
[2] Establishing a 5G Fund for Rural America, GN Docket No. 20-32, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (2023).