April 12, 2019 / 3:11 PM / 12 days ago

FCC to auction additional 5G spectrum, boost rural internet

WASHINGTON, April 12 (Reuters) - Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said on Friday the FCC intends to start the agency’s third 5G spectrum auction on Dec. 10, the latest effort to make more spectrum available for faster-speed service that could transform significant sectors of the U.S. economy.

Pai is also proposing to invest $20.4 billion over 10 years to build out high-speed broadband networks in rural America.

The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund aims to provide funding through a reverse auction to service providers in areas without access to high-speed service and aims to connect up to four million rural homes and small businesses to high-speed broadband networks.

Pai spoke on a call with reporters ahead of a White House event with President Donald Trump and rural residents who could benefit from faster networks to tout the administration’s efforts to boost next-generation 5G wireless networks and funding for rural broadband.

Since November, the FCC has auctioned 1,550 megahertz of spectrum to be used by commercial wireless providers for 5G connectivity. The third 5G spectrum auction will be the largest, with the FCC selling 3,400 megahertz in three different spectrum bands.

The FCC voted on Friday to seek comments on bidding procedures for the next auction. Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the auction is a good step but the commission must also pivot “to mid-band” spectrum “or risk falling behind other countries.”

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow reiterated last week that the administration opposed nationalizing the U.S. 5G network.

Verizon Communications Inc, AT&T Corp, Sprint Corp and T Mobile US Inc are beginning to deploy 5G service in U.S. cities and are working to extend their networks as 5G-compatible phones slowly become available.

The Republican administration has also been warning other countries against adopting 5G systems from Chinese telecommunications company Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, citing security concerns.

For more than a year, the White House has been mulling an executive order that would direct the Commerce Department to block U.S. companies from buying equipment from foreign telecommunications makers that pose significant national security risks, Reuters reported in December.

The FCC since March 2018 has also been considering rules to bar the use of funds from a government program to purchase equipment or services from companies that pose a security threat to U.S. communications networks. Pai said that proposal is still pending. (Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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