rural gigabit broadband equipment

The FCC has authorized 21 more winning bidders in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). The only large bidder on the list is Cox Communications, which had funding authorized for nine states.

Cincinnati Bell also had funding authorized for deployments in Indiana. Others approved include small telco and cable companies, as well as competitive providers.

The $9.2 billion RDOF auction, which was completed in December, was designed to award funding to cover some of the costs of deploying broadband to unserved rural areas. Funding for an area was tentatively awarded to the company that committed to deploying service in that area for the lowest level of support. 

There were over 180 winning bids in the RDOF auction. Some companies bid as part of consortiums and were later separated out from other consortium members, yielding a total of over 400 winning bidders.

To date only a small portion of the total winning bidders have had funding authorized. Last month, 13 winning bidders were authorized.

To obtain authorization, winning bidders must submit a long-form application, which the FCC reviews. After the FCC approves a company’s long-form application, the company has a short time to obtain a bankruptcy opinion letter and a letter of credit before being fully authorized.

The FCC apparently is closely scrutinizing long-form applications, as it is now 10 months since the auction was completed. Critics have said that the commission should have requested more information from bidders prior to the auction, rather than waiting until after the auction to obtain additional details. 

The top 10 winning bidders accounted for about three-quarters of the total funding tentatively awarded in the auction, and the FCC has not yet released funding to any of them.

Among the top 10 winning bidders are several companies that plan to use fixed wireless for gigabit service, which critics say is an unproven technology. Another top winning bidder is SpaceX, which plans to use low-earth orbit satellites to deliver service and which, critics say, may be unable to provide the speeds and capacity required. Also on the top winning bidder list is LTD Broadband, which according to critics, doesn’t have the resources to complete the deployments for which it won funding. 

A full list of the newly authorized RDOF winning bidders can be found on this FCC spreadsheet.

Additional information about the requirements for those winning bidders can be found in this public notice.

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