Company wins $10.2M grant for rural cell service

Associated Press Modified: October 3, 2012 at 4:01 pm •  Published: October 3, 2012

The company faces a three-year deadline to establish at least 3G service in the region, where broad areas have spotty cellphone service and only limited high-speed Internet capability. Cellphone users often can't find a signal outside the largest towns in each county.

The FCC said the grant money was awarded competitively through an auction. Nettles said the $10.2 million grant would pay only for infrastructure; money is supposed to be available later for capital to operate the system.

In a statement, the FCC said grant awards in Alabama and other states totaling $300 million marked the first time the agency had tried to achieve universal cellphone coverage.

"For too many, dead zones in mobile Internet coverage are too common — and today's winners will help the U.S. close those gaps," said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.

Pine Belt Cellular is a sister company of Pine Belt Telephone, established by Nettles father in 1958.