WASHINGTON — A century ago, railroad workers joined the Union and Pacific railroads to form a transcontinental railroad. Now, the cellular telephone industry says the last ``spike'' is about to be driven to form nationwide cellular phone service. A week ago, the Federal Communications Commission approved construction permits for cellular systems in the final two rural markets, meaning that at least one cellular construction permit has been issued for each the nation's 428 Rural Service Areas. As a condition of licensing, the systems must be activated within 18 months after the permit is issued.
The FCC divides the nation into 306 urban and 428 rural markets. The rural markets include 25 percent of the United States population, and 80 percent of the nation's land.