U.S. CELLULAR SEEKS TO EXPAND MOBILE BROADBAND IN RURAL MISSOURI WITH SUPPORT FROM FEDERAL RECOVERY ACT FUNDS
CHICAGO, September 10, 2009 – U.S. Cellular Corporation has applied for federal stimulus funding to help create jobs, enhance public safety and close the rural-urban digital divide in Missouri by providing 3G mobile broadband – largely over its existing wireless network – to rural and underserved communities. For projects in Missouri, the company has requested $11.2 million in grant support from the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP), which was established in response to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) and is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The ARRA – sometimes called the "Recovery Act" or Federal Stimulus package – has set aside $7.2 billion to promote access to broadband Internet services in rural and underserved communities, areas where U.S. Cellular has historically focused its development of wireless networks.
"By taking advantage of our existing and planned wireless infrastructure in Missouri, U.S. Cellular can bring the promise of the Internet to rural areas quickly and efficiently," said John E. Rooney, president and CEO of U.S. Cellular. "If provided with funding, we stand ready with shovels in-hand and are prepared to complete these mobile broadband projects within one year. It is an aggressive plan that will provide jobs, spur economic growth and enhance public safety for rural, underserved and vulnerable Americans."
Two reports by leading economists conclude that U.S. Cellular's proposed wireless broadband projects is estimated to provide up to 1,400 jobs and add as much as $167 million in GDP to the local economy.
Other beneficiaries of U.S. Cellular's proposed projects are the 15,460 community anchor institutions that provide public safety, economic development, healthcare and education services to rural Missouri. Several such institutions have written in support of U.S. Cellular's application to provide new and enhanced mobile broadband service.
"Hickory County is a remote, rural county with the highest percentage of persons over retirement age in the State of Missouri," wrote Hickory County, Missouri, Presiding Commissioner Kent Parson. "Being a small county of less than 10,000 people it has not been economically feasible for Internet providers to install the equipment necessary to accommodate the services for our citizens that most communities enjoy."
U.S. Cellular sees USDA's Broadband Initiatives Program as an opportunity to help bridge the urban-rural digital divide. Mobile broadband can provide critical applications that improve the health, safety and economic development opportunities that urban areas take for granted. With reliable wireless broadband, rural public safety officers and healthcare providers will have access to real-time information and the latest innovations in telemedicine.
"It will not be enough to fund broadband deployment through wires and cables alone," said Rooney. "Americans are active, mobile multi-taskers who want and need on-the-go access to information through wireless broadband networks. An investment in mobile broadband will help rural communities compete for jobs in an information economy, maintain tax bases for their schools and provide modern healthcare for their residents."
The projected cost of delivering mobile broadband service on U.S. Cellular's existing and budgeted cell sites to proposed service areas in Missouri is $22.4 million. Slightly less than half of this total is to be underwritten by a BIP grant, with the balance funded by U.S. Cellular using other sources. Based on projected costs in Missouri, U.S. Cellular will be able to introduce mobile wireless broadband at an average cost of $30 per household. "No one will be able to provide broadband to more customers faster or cheaper than what we propose," commented Rooney.
Even without BIP support, U.S. Cellular forecasts that 3G mobile broadband coverage will be enabled on 60 percent of its cell sites by the end of the summer, which will reach approximately 75 percent of its post-pay customers.
The 9,000 associates of U.S. Cellular believe a wireless phone enhances people's lives and a wireless company should be in the business of bringing people together. U.S. Cellular has a wide range of monthly plans, including those with unlimited nationwide calling, unlimited free incoming calls and options to prepay. The company has a growing catalog of phones like the BlackBerry® Curve, HTC Touch Pro and the touch-screen Samsung Delve, which offer e-mail and Web access. Based in Chicago, U.S. Cellular is the nation's fifth-largest full-service wireless carrier, serving 6.2 million customers across the country. To learn more about the company, visit one of its retail stores or uscellular.com.