The FCC has authorized Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) support for over a dozen smaller winning bidders, as well as a small number of bids for some larger winning bidders. In addition, the company declined to authorize certain bids for Conexon Connect, while approving others for the rural electric entity.
On the authorized list are rural broadband providers, including telcos and cable companies, along with at least one company – Wisper ISP – that traditionally has used fixed wireless.
Also on the list is Qwest Corporation, which is a bidding entity for Lumen/CenturyLink, for bids in Colorado and New Mexico. Those are both states that Lumen/CenturyLink plans to retain after its deal to sell its local exchange carrier operations in 20 states to Apollo Funds/Brightspeed is completed.
Lumen/CenturyLink was one of the top 10 winning bidders and has previously had funding authorized for several states.
The Conexon Connect authorizations are for Colorado, as are the defaults. According to an FCC public notice, Conexon declined to accept funding for certain areas where challengers said broadband service was already available.
Wisper ISP was one of the largest winning bidders in the previous Connect America Fund (CAF II) auction but was not among the top 10 in the RDOF auction. Its authorizations are for bids in Arkansas, Illinois and Missouri.
Gaining FCC authorization for RDOF bids is a two-step process. Initially, the FCC reviews and approves a company’s long-form application before putting the company on a ready-to-authorize list, at which point the company has about two weeks to submit a bankruptcy opinion letter and letter of credit. When those have been approved, the company is put on an authorized list.
The FCC has previously authorized RDOF funding for a large number of winning bidders, including about half of the top ten winning bidders who represent about three-quarters of the funding tentatively awarded in the auction.
Top 10 winning bidders still waiting to appear on a ready-to-authorize list include three companies that plan to use a combination of fiber broadband and gigabit fixed wireless to deliver service, along with SpaceX, which plans to use low-earth orbit satellites, and LTD Broadband, a company that traditionally used fixed wireless but was tentatively awarded funding for fiber broadband for a large service area that some have questioned the company’s ability to serve.
Also this week, the FCC authorized CAF II support for ViaSat for a single winning bid in Oregon and denied support for several other Oregon bids. The bids that were declined were on tribal lands and ViaSat was unsuccessful in getting eligible telecommunications carrier (ETC) designation for the tribal lands.
A complete list of companies whose RDOF funding was authorized is available at this link.