Interested parties have until October 14 to file applications to participate in the FCC’s rural broadband experiments. Last week the commission released a 24-page notice detailing the application process for the experiments, which among other things, reveals that applicants will not be allowed to ask for funding that exceeds the target support level based on an FCC cost model.
In the experiments, the FCC plans to award up to $100 million to eligible telecommunications carriers to bring broadband to areas of price cap carrier territories that do not have broadband service today. The commission plans to use what it learns from the process to structure the competitive bidding process for the Connect America Fund program.
If the FCC stays on schedule, sometime this year price cap carriers will be asked to accept or decline cost model-calculated CAF support for unserved areas in their local territories on a state-by-state basis. The competitive bidding process will occur only in unserved areas where the incumbent price cap carrier declines funding.
The Rural Broadband Experiments
The $100 million allocated for the rural broadband experiments will be distributed in equal amounts over a period of 10 years. No single entity can collect more than $20 million.
The FCC has calculated what it believes is the appropriate amount of support on a census block basis using a cost model. Applicants will specify which census blocks they propose to serve and the amount of support requested, along with other information.
The commission has created an online application system, which will not accept a bid higher than the total model-based support for the applicant’s chosen census blocks. The FCC said previously that it will award funding to the most cost-effective projects.
In an FAQ about the rural broadband experiments the FCC explains what will happen if no two bidders go after the same census block. “Bidders will be compared against all other bidders, not just bidders that propose to serve the same census blocks,” the FCC says. “Bidders will receive a cost-effectiveness score based on the census blocks that they propose to serve. This cost-effectiveness score will then be compared to other bidders’ cost-effectiveness score, regardless of which blocks they propose to serve.”
Applicants must agree to provide both broadband and voice service. In keeping with that requirement, the FCC will allow winning bidders to receive funding for areas where a broadband wireless provider offers stand-alone broadband.
Additional details about the rural broadband experiment application process can be found in this FCC notice.