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