The nation’s largest publicly held carriers had until Monday to advise the FCC if they elect to receive a seventh year of support in the Connect America Fund CAF program, and at least some of them have opted to do so.
The CAF program offered money to the larger carriers, known as price cap carriers, in 2015 in exchange for committing to deploy broadband to rural portions of their local service territory lacking broadband service. Funding was based on a cost model. Carriers had to accept or reject funding on a state-by-state basis and most of them accepted most of the money they were offered. Funding was for six years, and deployments were expected to be completed by the end of the sixth year, but carriers had the option of electing to receive a seventh year of support. The sixth year of support ends at the end of this year.
In the December 2014 Connect America Fund report and order, the FCC stated that the purpose of the seventh year of support was to provide “a gradual transition to the elimination of support.”
In exchange for receiving the additional support, carriers are “required to continue providing broadband with performance characteristics that remain reasonably comparable to the performance characteristics of terrestrial fixed broadband service in urban America.”
Over the past week, AT&T, Frontier and CenturyLink sent letters to the FCC electing to accept the seventh year of CAF support. Three other price cap carriers — Cincinnati Bell, Consolidated Communications and Windstream – also were eligible to request the seventh year of support and may have done so at an earlier date.
AT&T and CenturyLink accepted all funding for all states for which they accepted CAF funding. For AT&T, seventh year CAF funding totals approximately $427 million for 18 states. For CenturyLink, the total seventh year funding totals approximately $503 million for 33 states.
Frontier elected seventh year CAF funding for 25 of the 29 states for which it accepted funding back in 2015. The company did not accept funding for Idaho, Montana, Oregon or Washington – the four states where Frontier sold its operations to WaveDivision Capital, which uses the name Ziply for those operations.
The seventh year CAF Funding that Frontier accepted totals approximately $313 million.