Rural Associations Ask for Ten Years of Legacy Support Under 5G Order

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The Rural Wireless Association (RWA) and NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association – recently had discussions with FCC staff concerning the Commission’s Draft Order on the 5G Fund for Rural America. The main point of contention concerned the FCC’s proposal to end legacy support just five years after conclusion of the 5G Phase 1 Auction.
In their follow-up letter, the two associations argued, with very sound logic, that this early end of legacy support will leave RLECs with insufficient funding to keep their 5G networks operational. Instead, the FCC was reminded of both associations’ original advocacy of a ten-year plan that would allow RLECs to properly recover the substantial costs associated with building out 5G networks.
“The targeted legacy support must be sufficient and predictable. Five years is an insufficient amount of time to recover the investment or for continued operations,” the letter stated succinctly. It also noted the decline in roaming revenues caused by nationwide carriers blocking access to rural carrier networks as a factor in the need for the longer period of legacy support.
The letter brought out several other problems with the draft order, most notably the requirement that an equal amount of monthly disbursements over the course of the plan would be inadequate to cover the much higher, earlier upfront costs incurred in the initial stages of 5G deployment.
RWA and NTCA have worked extremely hard, and continue to do so, to assure that small RLECs have the totality of support necessary to provide 5G to rural America.
We believe that legacy support should continue not only through the entire 5G deployment process and beyond, but until such time as small ILECs have proven sources of funding to meet their federally mandated requirement to provide Universal Service at affordable rates.