All telcos fudge these figures. The U.S. population on July 22, 2017 is 325,491,181 on the census bureau clock. Population will be less than 327M yearend. John Legere of T-Mobile says his LTE network covers 315M. That's 98%. They will cover 321M in six months. AT&T and Verizon both claim 98% today. Overlap is nearly total, but not exactly.
The U.S. has ~99% LTE coverage unless T-Mobile CEO Legere, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, and AT&T CFO John Stephens are lying in the Wall Street presentations. As soon as I saw Pai's proposal for $4.8B in LTE subsidies, I knew something was wrong.
I wrote FCC Plan May Reduce 4G Deployment (Not Satire). Since ~2010, telcos have been slashing spending on landlines even where they would be profitable. They aren't stupid and preferred to wait for the government to pay for everything. With the FCC now paying for wireless, they are cutting wireless spending.
The telcos know that the FCC usually will come to them no matter how much they are demanding. Almost no one can profitably serve extreme rural areas except telcos who have local offices and backhaul in place. Even $7B in stimulus funds was not enough to persuade new entrants to reach the unserved. The remaining unserved are extremely scattered; it's hard to find a town of 200 homes without service. Most unserved are in smaller clusters, often a handful or even a single home.
~80% of those not covered lived in AT&T, Verizon, or Century/Qwest territory. Verizon refused to expand their network even if the government paid for all of it in the stimulus. Verizon, like AT&T, decided several years ago to go wireless only to about 25% of their homes. That is not because rural lines are necessarily unprofitable. It's just that the single wireless network is so much cheaper than maintaining both that Verizon makes more money shutting the copper. Most of the remaining homes with landline will switch to Verizon wireless.
Politician's plans for the unserved are questionable as the truths politicians tell.
In typical T-Mobile passion, we are not wasting any time and we plan to light up the first 600 megahertz site in August. We expect spectrum covering more than 1.2 million square miles to be clear in 2017, with actual deployments in many areas by year end. We expect to have several compatible devices by the holiday season, so our customers can take advantage of this right away ... We continue to grow our 4G LTE network, which covers 315 million people today and we have 321 million in our sites by year end 2017. We remain the fastest network in America. We have been the fastest network in America for 14 quarters in a row and the gap is getting even wider.
But don't believe Legere's hype
"We will use a portion of our 600 megahertz spectrum holdings to deploy America’s first nationwide 5G network in the 2019/2020 timeframe." It's really 4G, a software tweak, and misleading PR.