FCC to put $1 billion of $9 billion rural fund into precision ag
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said Monday that he intends to put $1 billion of his $9 billion rural fund for deployment of precision agriculture.
Pai talked about his commitment to precision agriculture in opening remarks at the first meeting of the FCC’s Task Force for Reviewing the Connectivity and Technology Needs of Precision Agriculture.
Providing connectivity and technology for precision agriculture is different from the government’s commitment to providing broadband internet service to people in rural America because precision agriculture focuses on connecting machines rather than people.
Last week Pai announced that he would establish the 5G Fund, which would make up to $9 billion in Universal Service Fund support available to carriers to deploy advanced 5G mobile wireless services in rural America.
FCC said this major investment in rural America would be allocated through a reverse auction and would target hard-to-serve areas with sparse populations and/or rugged terrain.
“5G has the potential to bring many benefits to American consumers and businesses, including wireless networks that are more responsive, more secure, and up to 100 times faster than today’s 4G LTE networks,” said Pai.
“We want to make sure that rural Americans enjoy these benefits, just as residents of large urban areas will. In order to do that, the Universal Service Fund must be forward-looking and support the networks of tomorrow.“
“Moreover, America’s farms and ranches have unique wireless connectivity needs, as I’ve seen across the country. That’s why I will move forward as quickly as possible to establish a 5G Fund that would bring next-generation 5G services to rural areas and would reserve some of that funding for 5G networks that promote precision agriculture. We must ensure that 5G narrows rather than widens the digital divide and that rural Americans receive the benefits that come from wireless innovation.”
The 5G Fund would replace the planned Mobility Fund Phase II, which would have provided federal support for 4G LTE service in unserved areas.
Pursuant to the Mobility Fund Phase II rules, wireless providers were required to submit 4G LTE coverage data in order to help the commission target federal subsidies to unserved parts of the country.
The Mobility Fund Phase II challenge process gave stakeholders an opportunity to dispute these coverage maps by submitting speed tests to the commission. But in a report released Friday, commission staff finds that the 4G LTE coverage data submitted by providers is not sufficiently reliable for the purpose of moving forward with Mobility Fund Phase II.
Pai also said he will “put a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the 5G Fund up for a vote before the commission early next year, so the NPRM will at the very least, seek comment on how the fund could help advance precision ag efforts,” a spokesman said.
The task force meeting was simulcast but has not yet been posted to the FCC website.