The FCC will be funding Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint to the tune of $4.53 billion to expand their wireless networks in sparsely populated rural areas, and ensure 10Mbps minimum download speeds. The move is part of its Mobility Fund Phase II auction, and the dough will be distributed to carriers over a 10-year period. The full statement of the FCC is worth reading, be it only for the jab pointed at T-Mobile, which argued for much lower minimum speeds requirement:
We are not persuaded that the minimum baseline performance requirement for median data speeds should be reduced to 5/1 Mbps, as T-Mobile urges. The Commission seeks to ensure that the performance of broadband service in rural and high-cost areas is reasonably comparable to that in urban areas, and the Commission’s own analysis at the time the MF-II Report & Order was adopted indicated that customers of nationwide carriers were receiving data at median speeds of around 10/1 Mbps or faster.
Furthermore, in our more recent MF-II Order on Reconsideration, we explained that, in contrast to the 5 Mbps eligibility benchmark in the challenge process, which serves to target support where it is currently needed most, the 10 Mbps minimum baseline performance requirement ‘assure[s] that service in eligible areas is reasonably comparable to urban offerings in the future.’ This forward-looking approach is consistent with past Commission decisions in the universal service context and recognizes that consumer demand for faster mobile wireless services is growing.
About 3 million people in the US live in areas with no or very spotty LTE coverage, an the FCC is intent to do something about it. The second phase of its rural network plan was supposed to start a few years back, but arguments over fund allocation and tower sharing were gumming up the works until this very moment.