USCellular is the sole winner of funding from the Nebraska Universal Service Fund (NUSF) Dedicated Wireless Fund Program for 2023. The company was the only applicant in the program.
The company requested just over $5.8 million to go toward the cost of deploying 10 cell tower sites but was awarded just under $3.5 million for six cell tower sites.
The fund had a budget of $6 billion. The funding that was not awarded will roll over into the budget for 2024, according to the Nebraska Public Service Commission, which made the award.
“Funding the buildout of cell towers through the Nebraska Universal Service Fund is yet another way the Commission is working to help improve communication to unserved and underserved areas,” said Dan Watermeier, chair of the Nebraska Public Service Commission, in a prepared statement.
“This funding will help us ensure residents and businesses across the state have reliable, wireless connectivity at home and on-the-go, and we look forward to working with the Commission on their efforts to ensure that the fund program continues to be an effective tool to help bridge the digital divide in Nebraska,” said Monique Moore, director of sales and operations for UScellular in Nebraska.
According to UScellular, building and maintaining a new cell tower in rural areas can cost twice as much as building one in an urban center. The company also noted that it has built or upgraded more than 50 towers using NUSF funding since 2010.
UScellular will be required to build towers “in a manner that will accommodate co-location and sharing of additional equipment of other wireless carriers, public safety agencies, internet providers and other providers with technologies that qualify,” said the Nebraska PSC in the order granting UScellular’s award.
The company also must permit roaming and co-location of facilities on the towers at commercially reasonable rates. In addition, it must have the equipment and software necessary for Phase II wireless E911 capability.
When a request has been made by a county or public safety answering point, UScellular will have to provide Phase II wireless E911 service in a manner that is consistent with federal regulations.
The company has committed to completing construction of the towers within 24 months.
Nebraska isn’t the only state that provides funding for cell towers. Missouri also has a program.