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Dead zones? There’s a map for that.

Mon, 02/13/2012 - 2:52pm
Maisie Ramsay, Wireless Week

Forget the colorful maps wireless operators use to advertise their coverage. The FCC has come out with a map of its own in black, white and grey.

Intentional or not, the monochromatic color scheme is appropriate for a map that shows the country's 3G dead zones – areas where the only cellular service to be had is 2G, at best.

The FCC's single-tone coverage guide shows areas of the nation eligible for support under the first phase of a new $300 million fund targeted at getting wireless service out to areas without sufficient coverage. An estimated 18 million Americans have no high-speed Internet service or mobile broadband coverage, according to the agency.

FCC dead zone map

Sparsely populated areas of the United States are expensive to cover, and the fund will provide a one-time payment to subsidize the cost of rural deployments. Companies interested in applying for subsidies can check the map for locations that qualify for support.

The agency said earlier this month that it would conduct a reverse auction next September to determine who would get support.

The fund was created by the FCC's overhaul of the bloated, inefficient Universal Service Fund and intercarrier compensation system. Some in the wireless industry criticized the amount of cash allocated to mobile broadband by the $4.5 billion fund.

"By anyone’s estimation, this number is insufficient and falls short of consumer needs," Rural Cellular Association President and CEO Steve Berry told Wireless Week when the funding changes were announced in October.

After the first phase of the project completes, the annual wireless budget is set to rise to just $500 million. The agency is also set to draw down some legacy subsidies, causing some rural operators to consider shutting down parts of their network that could become unprofitable under the plan.

Eric Graham, vice president of government relations for C Spire Wireless, said at the time that "the result of this order will be that we have to turn off towers."

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