FCC Gives Out First 5G-Specific USF Funds

The FCC has given out its first Universal Service Fund broadband subsidy targeted specifically at a 5G buildout. 

Related: Pai Says More Funds Needed for Puerto Rico 

That came as part of almost a quarter of a billion dollars ($237.9 million) to "harden" mobile broadband networks in hurricane-battered (Irma and Maria) Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  

Related: FCC's Pai Proposes Directing $950M for PR, VI Broadband 

The money will be handed out over three years, with $233.9 million going to three carriers in Puerto Rico and another $4 million for the Virgin Islands.  

In Puerto Rico, $97.8 million will go to AT&T, $76.6 million to Puerto Rico Telephone Company, and $59.6 million to T-Mobile. The $4 million in the Virgin Islands will go to AT&T. 

Related: AT&T Gets STA to Boost Spectrum for Puerto Rico, V.I. 

The FCC has already given out about $130 million in added USF to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. 

"[T]hrough today’s action, we are taking a major step toward expanding, improving, and hardening mobile broadband networks on the islands," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "I’m especially pleased that we are providing the first universal service funding ever specifically targeted for the deployment of 5G networks so that consumers in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will benefit from the next generation of wireless connectivity.”

Following a trip to the hurricane-ravaged areas in 2017, Pai told Multichannel News in an exclusive interview that he anticipated trying to use USF money to help rebuild communications networks.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.