Carolina West to expand Web access
by Adam Orr
And Watauga County is not alone -- the Federal Communications Commission estimates that more than 1.7 million Americans have no wireless access of any kind, over at least 653,000 road miles.
The FCC hopes to locally rectify that with a more than $20.7 million grant to Carolina West Wireless to eliminate gaps in wireless Internet coverage during the next two years, thanks to the FCC's new Mobility Fund auction.
"As a result of the auction, new mobile infrastructure deployment will begin in 31 states with areas that currently lack access to 3G or 4G mobile service," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. "People in affected areas will soon have greater access to the job, education and health-care opportunities of America's world-leading mobile economy."
In Watauga County alone, nearly 900 residents over 77 road-miles lack access.
Surrounding counties have similar dead-zone issues. In Ashe County, for instance, more than 1,300 residents have no current access to wireless Internet coverage across nearly 100 road-miles. Avery County has 97 road-miles of outages and nearly 1,600 residents with no access, while Alleghany County has just 20.5 road-miles without access and just an estimated 102 residents without wireless Internet access.
Johnson County, Tenn., has 55.8 unserved road-miles and 714 residents without access, while Grayson County, Va., has more than 400 unserved road miles with more than 2000 residents without access.
"Millions of Americas live in communities where current-generation mobile service is unavailable, and millions more work in or travel through such areas. To accelerate our nation's ongoing effort to close this mobility gap in a fiscally responsible manner, this rulemaking seeks comment on using reserves accumulated in the Universal Service Fund to create a new Mobility Fund," according to FCC.com "The purpose of the Mobility Fund is to significantly improve coverage of current-generation or better mobile voice and Internet service for consumers in areas where such coverage is currently missing, and to do so by supporting private investment. The Mobility Fund would use market mechanisms -- specifically, a reverse auction -- to make a one-time support available to service providers to cost-effectively extend mobile coverage in specified unserved areas."
The FCC is expected to spend $500 million in one-time aid to tribal and rural areas and $50 million a year to continue the new phases of the effort elsewhere across the country.
The networks set for construction through the program will span 83,000 new U.S. road miles, according to Genachowski.
The FCC received 900 bids from 38 companies participating in the auction, which ended Oct. 3. The nation's largest wireless service providers, AT&T, Verizon and Sprint did not participate in the bidding.
Remaining bidders were smaller local and regional carriers, including Carolina West Wireless.
The Federal Communications Commission regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. It was established by the Communications Act of 1934 and operates as an independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress.