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Verizon Sets Sights On Rural LTE

FCC leaders praised Verizon's goal of bringing its Long-Term Evolution broadband into underserved areas.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski and commissioner Meredith Baker Wednesday hailed Verizon Wireless' plan to bring its robust Long-Term Evolution network to rural areas. Verizon has already committed to deploy LTE in at least 25 U.S. urban areas by the end of the year.

Verizon Wireless, which is jointly owned by Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group, would have much to gain by rolling out LTE in rural areas and the high-speed service could be a boon for consumers in rural areas as well.

"Bringing the benefits of mobile broadband to rural America is one of the Commission's top priorities," Genachowski and Baker said in a joint statement. "The news of Verizon Wireless' plan to partner with rural providers to accelerate investment in 4G networks is very encouraging. Seamless universal connectivity is essential to economic growth and world-class technology leadership."

The joint statement is a rare current example of agreement among FCC commissioners from different political parties. Genachowski is a Democrat and Baker a Republican.

A move to deploy LTE in rural areas could solve several problems in bringing telecom service to underserved rural areas. Verizon Communications, which owns 55% of Verizon Wireless, has been spinning off mostly wireline operations in several states while it invests more in its wireless and FiOS fiber services. High-speed LTE could help many consumers who are currently saddled with slower service in rural areas.

The FCC auctioned off much of the prized 700-MHz spectrum two years ago and the fact that much of it easily reached rural areas may bode well for Verizon Wireless. The company acquired a big chunk of the 700-MHz spectrum for $4.7 billion.

In separate comments this week, Verizon Wireless executives said they want to work with rural carriers to bring LTE to their customers. However, the executives didn't give any dates for actual deployment of LTE in rural areas.

"We look forward to learning more about Verizon Wireless' initiative, its successful implementation, and other example of industry-led innovation," Genachowski and Baker said in their joint statement.

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