The FCC said today that it has begun accepting applications for the Connect America Fund Phase II reverse auction. Interested parties will have until March 30 to submit Connect America Fund auction applications.

The auction will start on July 24 and will make as much as $1.98 billion available during the next decade.

“This is a unique opportunity for broadband providers to expand their service,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a press release. “More important, this is a unique opportunity to bring digital opportunity to parts of rural America that have been bypassed by the broadband revolution.  So I hope that all eligible providers will give this opportunity a hard look and choose to participate.”

Connect America Fund Auction Applications
The goal of the CAF II auction, which also is known as Auction 903, is to bring broadband to as many as 1 million homes and small businesses in unserved areas in 20 states. It aims to do this by providing ecosystem support in areas in which incumbent price cap carriers have declined to provide services at the level of funding offered by the FCC.

The reverse auction was set in January. Network operators pledging to provide services with the lowest level of FCC support will be awarded funding in specific areas. Bids will be weighted in favor of providers promising lower latency and high speeds over those bidding for the same area at the same price but fall short on those metrics.

Telecompetitor reported that the FCC will accept required letters of credit from small banks. Previously, letters of credit from larger banks were required. This caused several provisional winners to decline funding in a small scale test of the reverse auction concept several years ago. The minimum bidding unit will be a census block group.

The CAF II auction is part of a concerted effort by the FCC to bring better broadband services to rural areas. The reverse auction will include education program aimed at encouraging participation by network operators. Phone companies, fixed wireless providers, satellite providers, cable companies and rural utilities are expected to participate