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.