rural landscape

The FCC has approved 13 smaller bidders to receive funding won in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction.

The funding will go toward covering some of the costs of deploying broadband to unserved and underserved rural areas and had been tentatively awarded to the company that committed to deploying service for an area with the lowest level of support.

Over $9 billion was tentatively awarded in the RDOF auction, to be distributed over a multi-year period. Although there were over 200 winning bidders, the top 10 winning bids are slated to receive more than 75% of the funding, and some of those bids have come into question.

Companies on the approved list release yesterday are:

  • BEK Communications Cooperative
  • Clay County Connect
  • Connect 2 First Internet LLC
  • Cumberland Connect LLC
  • Easton Utilities Commission
  • Farmers Mutual Telephone Company
  • Gibson Connect LLC
  • Net Ops Communications LLC
  • PGEC Enterprises
  • Pine Cellular Phones, Inc.
  • Point Broadband Fiber Holding
  • RC Technologies
  • Union Telephone Company

Some of the largest winning bidders plan to use fixed wireless technology to deliver gigabit service, which opponents say has not been proven in rural areas. Another large bidder was SpaceX, which plans to deliver 100 Mbps service using low-earth orbit satellites, another unproven technology, and opponents have questioned whether the system will have sufficient capacity. And the largest winning bidder is a company that today serves a relatively small area in comparison with the areas for which the company has tentatively won funding, which also has raised concerns.

Concerns also have been raised about whether some census blocks that were included in the auction should have been included. In July, numerous winning bidders received a list of those blocks from the FCC and were encouraged to decline funding for areas that didn’t fit the definition of unserved or underserved.

Considering all this, it’s not surprising that the FCC is taking its time in releasing funding to winning bidders. The commission is currently in the process of reviewing the long-form applications that winning bidders were required to submit after tentatively winning funding.

In July, the commission released the first list of companies to which it was ready to authorize funding, and companies on the list were required to obtain a letter of credit and a bankruptcy opinion letter before funding would be authorized. The companies on the list released yesterday have obtained the required documents.

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