Eighteen of the smaller winning bidders in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) program have received full approval from the FCC, which means funding won in the RDOF auction can now be released to them.
The RDOF auction, which was completed late last year, tentatively awarded $9.2 billion in funding to cover some of the costs of bringing broadband to unserved rural areas. Winning bidders were those who committed to deploying service for the lowest level of support.
A weighting system favored bids to deploy higher-speed, lower-latency service and the majority of winning bids were for gigabit deployments.
To date, only a relatively small portion of winning bidders have had funding released to them. Obtaining the funding is a multi-step process. When the auction was completed, winning bidders were required to submit long-form applications with further details about their operations and their projects. If the winning bidder isn’t already an eligible telecommunications carrier in the states for which it was tentatively awarded funding, the company also must obtain that designation.
After the FCC has reviewed and approved a company’s long-form application, the company is deemed “ready to authorize.” At that point, the company has about two weeks to submit a letter of credit and a bankruptcy opinion letter to the commission.
After the FCC receives and reviews that material, the company is put on an “authorized” list like the one issued today, and funding can be released to the company.
Companies on the authorization list released today are:
- Arrowhead Electric Cooperative
- BARConnects, LLC
- Barry Technology Services, LLC
- Chariton Valley Communications Corporation
- Cherry Capital Connection, LLC
- Citynet West Virginia, LLC
- Consolidated Telephone Company
- Corn Belt Telephone
- Garden Valley Telephone Company
- Heartland Telecommunications Company of Iowa
- LaGrange County Rural Electric Membership Corp.
- Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative
- Pinpoint Communications, Inc.
- Polar Telecom, Inc.
- SEI Data, Inc.
- St. Paul Cooperative Telephone Association
- Twin Lakes Communications, Inc.
- Valley Telecommunications Cooperative Association
The FCC has been taking its time in reviewing long-form applications – applications critics say should have been required before the auction rather than after. The top 10 bidders tentatively won most of the funding and to date, most of the top 10 have not had their long-form applications approved, perhaps because critics have raised questions about some of the projects.
As of earlier this week, only about 18.5% of winning bids had been declared ready-to-authorize and even fewer have received final authorization.