On Friday, April 24, 2020, the Commission released the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Order (“NPRM”) and “Order”) in the Establishing a 5G Fund proceeding, which was adopted in the April Open Meeting (GN Docket No. 20-32). The NPRM proposes to establish a 5G Fund for rural America using a multi-round reverse auction to distribute up to $9 billion, in two phases, over ten years to support the deployment of 5G mobile wireless broadband and voice services. draft Order directs the Wireline Competition Bureau and Office of Economics and Analytics (“WCB/OEA”) to seek comment on and develop an adjustment factor to ensure sufficient auction support in areas with rugged terrain, spare populations, or other factors affecting deployment costs.
The adopted item makes a few substantive changes to the NPRM:
- The NPRM clarifies that the budget of the 5G Fund would focus on areas that are harder to serve and higher-cost areas, specifically targeting deployments that would facilitate precision agriculture. (¶ 42).
- The NPRM additional comment on how, under the Option A approach, whether the public interest obligations and performance requirements should be delayed until after the release of the final list of areas eligible for support in the 5G Fund Phase I auction, considering the proposal to exempt ineligible portions of a legacy support recipients subsidized area from these obligations. The Commission does not anticipate these delays under the Option B approach. (¶ 88). The NPRM also asks what an appropriate subscriber count cutoff would be to determine which legacy support recipients are small carriers for purposes of the 5G Fund. (¶ 93).
- Regarding enforceable commitments, the Commission asks whether other carriers have other enforceable commitments to deploy 5G, and if so, should carriers be able to remove those areas from the auction. The Commission seeks comment on any alternative mechanisms to address planned 5G deployment to ensure that limited Commission funds are most efficiently targeted to support areas. (¶ 133).
Comments on the NPRM are due 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
Reply comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
The Order will be effective immediately upon publication in the Federal Register.
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