Meet Shane Wells, a fourth-generation family farmer in Kentucky, who is leveraging 4G wireless connectivity to enhance his farm’s productivity, protect his crops, and preserve the environment—wireless is helping him make sure his farm is there for the fifth generation.

Wireless Connects
Rural America

We believe that every American community should have access to the connectivity of wireless networks and the apps, services, and platforms those connections enable.

The first 4G networks were rolled out in the U.S. in 2010. Today—just seven years later—these high-speed mobile networks cover 99.7% of all Americans, in urban and rural areas alike, including nearly 99% of rural Americans. And we connect Americans wherever they are—at home, at work, or on the road, covering 96% of rural road miles. We’ve made these strides even as rural areas can present challenges, such as sparse populations over expansive distances and frequently difficult terrain.

We’ve been able to build out world-leading 4G networks in this remarkably short time thanks to smart government policy and because wireless invests in America. Wireless providers have invested more than $300 billion in their networks over the last 12 years, including more than $26 billion in 2016.

We’ve made great progress in bringing wireless to rural America, but more can be done. That’s why we’re working with policymakers to expand the number of Americans who can experience world-leading wireless networks wherever they live and work.

The Wireless Industry
Invests Across America

Trends on rural coverage demonstrate the wireless industry’s commitment to serving more Americans each year. The industry is working with policymakers to enhance government data sets so they most accurately reflect these increases in service.

Wireless & Rural America:
By the Numbers

of rural Americans who have access to at least one 4G provider, as of December 2016. That’s roughly 56 million rural Americans.
rural road miles covered by wireless service, as of January 2017. That’s over 96% of rural road miles across the country.
more rural Americans covered by mobile broadband in the past five years.
of rural Americans who can choose between three or more 4G providers—a nearly 30 percent increase over the last 18 months.
wireless carriers serve customers in the United States, bringing leading mobile networks to communities across America.

Steps to Expand Wireless
in Rural America

Policymakers can help connect more rural communities across our country by incentivizing industry investment and providing support for economically challenging areas to serve. Specifically, policymakers can:

Deploy federal funding for serving certain areas.

The last significant reform of the Universal Service Fund occurred just months after 4G was deployed and created the Mobility Fund, a program designed to extend wireless connectivity in rural America. The FCC should schedule Phase II of its Mobility Fund as soon as possible, so $453M in annual support can be used to preserve and extend 4G in rural and hard-to-serve areas. And with wireless increasingly a solution for broadband at home, any “home” broadband programs must be technologically neutral.

Create a spectrum pipeline.

Spectrum is the lifeblood of the wireless industry, and the repurposing and auction of both federal and commercial spectrum expand wireless carriers’ opportunities to deliver new services across America – while generating billions of dollars for the U.S. Treasury. A pipeline of new airwaves, including low-band spectrum that travels for miles and can help lower deployment costs in rural areas, is critical.

Modernize siting rules.

The rules for wireless infrastructure deployment have not kept up with innovative new technologies and network architecture. From the siting process on federal lands in rural and remote areas, to Tribal reviews of siting projects on non-Tribal lands, to increasing access and decreasing costs and delays at the state and local levels, all levels of government can streamline these rules to drive down the cost of deployment.

Support new and existing strategies.

Policymakers should support and explore unique, new and existing approaches to drive more funding and improve rural deployment. For instance, national/rural provider partnerships have brought 4G to millions of rural Americans across hundreds of thousands of square miles.

Case Studies

Rural Kansas

Wireless can help bring healthcare services to remote communities, as WellCar—a collaboration between Sprint, Intel, Panasonic, and others—shows. These companies teamed to outfit a vehicle to provide wireless-enabled healthcare services to patients located in remote areas of Kansas, and Sprint worked to optimize coverage wherever the car traveled.

Mississippi Farm

Louise, Mississippi, population 199, is home of Seward and Son Planting Company, a family farm that uses wireless connectivity to power smart solutions for their 30,000 acres. By leveraging IoT sensors and software, farms like Seward and Son can reduce their energy costs by 35% and use this wirelessly collected data to inform future planting decisions.

Paw Paw, West Virginia

Building networks in some rural areas doesn’t make good business sense sometimes. But as U.S. Cellular showed in bringing 4G to Paw Paw, West Virginia, a little support can go a long way. With the help of USF funds, the company delivered 4G to the town's 508 residents, a development one public official called a "game-changer" that brought public safety and economic development benefits to the community.

Covering Millions More

Wireless networks run on spectrum, and low-band airwaves—like those from the 2017 incentive auction—are ideally suited for rural areas. T-Mobile has already begun deploying network sites across states like Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma this year, a move that will expand its 4G coverage in 2017 alone by six million, mostly rural, Americans.

What Policymakers are Saying

Nowhere is the potential of wireless more apparent than in rural America where we are on the verge of seeing its real transformative powers.”

—FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly

No matter who you are or where you live in this country, you need access to modern communications to have a fair shot at 21st century success.”

—FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel

Not only does building out wireless access create jobs, but it is necessary for our rural communities to thrive and be competitive in the 21st Century.”

—Rep. Dave Loebsack (Iowa’s 2nd CD)

Telecommunication and broadband connectivity in rural America ... enables new opportunities for farmers and ranchers when it comes to the millions of acres of land that they actively manage.”