Improvements to be completed within 3 years
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — A market-based approach to expanding cell phone service to rural areas could pay dividends for Colorado.
The Federal Communications Commission last week announced that it will use $32.6 million as part of its “Mobility Fund” auction to expand coverage in Baca, Conejos, Hinsdale, Jackson, Larimer, Las Animas, Mineral, Pueblo and Saguache counties.
The Mobility Fund auction used an innovative, market-based competition to distribute funding, the first time such an auction had been run in the United States. Carriers competed against others across the country, and winners were chosen based on the lowest cost-per-mile bids to extend coverage to unserved roads. This will maximize the impact of the new funding to speed deployment to the greatest number of unserved areas.
U.S. Senator Mark Udall said the expansion is critical for economic development in rural Colorado.
“Reliable cell coverage is critical for business development, and the quality of life and safety of residents in rural Colorado,” Udall said. “The FCC’s ‘Mobility Fund’ is a great example of how government can partner with the private sector to develop the infrastructure we need to build a diverse, 21st century economy that supports businesses and residents throughout Colorado.”
Under the Mobility Fund program, the improvements — made by private cell carriers in Colorado — must be completed within three years.
The Mobility Fund is part of the FCC’s effort to close gaps in cell phone coverage across the country. The effort marks the first time in history the FCC has made universal mobile service an express universal service goal.
Thirty-eight companies and subsidiaries participated in the auction, submitting nearly 900 bids. Winners ranged from larger national carriers like T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular to smaller carriers like Pine Belt Cellular, Inc. in Alabama, and VTel Wireless, Inc. in Vermont. The Commission expects millions more in private investment to complement the auction funding.
This auction is just the first step in the Commission’s new effort to provide support to accelerate mobile deployment. The Commission will provide an additional $50 million in one-time support to Tribal Lands and $500 million annually for ongoing support to mobile services in Phase II of Mobility Fund. This funding all comes from savings from last year’s Universal Service reforms.