Twelve new entities – including small rural telephone companies, utility companies and others — have been provisionally selected to participate in the FCC’s rural broadband experiments. The newly selected entities were chosen after some of the entities originally selected to participate were denied funding. The new provisional winners will share $27 million freed up through those denials.
The money will be used to bring broadband to rural areas where the service is not available today or is only available at low speeds. Information gained from the experiments will be used to shape the competitive bidding program that will occur if some of the large incumbent price cap carriers decline funding from the Connect America Fund program to bring broadband to unserved areas in their territories.
Rural Broadband Experiment Winners
Small telcos on the list of new provisional winners include:
- Daktel Communications
- Federated Telephone Cooperative
- Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative
- West Central Telephone Association
Utility companies on the new list include:
- BARC Electric Cooperative
- EPB of Tennessee
- Lake Region Technology & Communications
- Midwest Energy Cooperative
Also on the list are Skybeam, a unit of fixed broadband wireless provider JAB Broadband; competitive carrier Northeast Rural Services; the City of Chanute, Kansas; and an entity known as Douglas Services that won funding for Oklahoma but about which Telecompetitor could find no information.
All provisional winners on the new list requested funding in Category 1 of three categories included in the program. Entities in this category commit to bringing broadband at speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream and 25 Mbps upstream.
Entities originally selected provisionally for the program that were subsequently denied by the FCC include:
- AirNorth Communications
- Agile Network Builders
- Brainstorm Internet
- Chaffee County Telecom
- Crystal Broadband Networks
- Declaration Networks Group
- DeNovo Group
- Giant Communications
- Last Mile Broadband
- Lennon Telephone Company
- Mercury Wireless
- Rural Broadband Services
- San Joaquin Broadband
- Tower Communications
- Worldcall Interconnect
Entities were denied for a variety of reasons. Some, including entities that did not exist three years ago, requested waivers for a requirement to file three years of audited financial statements. Others requested waivers for a requirement to have their network diagram certified by a professional engineer. Additional denials involved a request for a deadline delay and failing to file certain financial information.
In making the denial decision the FCC said “strict enforcement of the deadlines and filing requirements adopted by the commission is appropriate given the accelerated time frame for the rural broadband experiments.” This is an apparent reference to the role of the experiments in phase two of the Connect America Fund program, which the FCC is eager to get underway this year.
The Fiber to the Home Council issued a statement praising the announcement of the new provisional winners as “yet another step in implementing the Chairman’s vision to bring future-proof scalable high-performance broadband networks to all Americans” and to spur innovation and job creation.
The statement is interesting considering that rural broadband experiment funding will go toward a variety of technologies including FTTH and other options such as broadband wireless. The FTTH Council goes on to say that “the need for all fiber networks to achieve these ends should not be limited to these few ‘experiments’ but should direct the Commission’s actions for all of its support programs.”
The council may be concerned that in attempting to minimize broadband deployment costs, the FCC will steer funding away from FTTH and toward options such as broadband wireless.
Updated March 11
Telecompetitor got a call from FTTH Council President Heather Burnett Gold who wanted to clarify what was meant by the statement that the FTTH Council issued about the rural broadband experiments. She noted that the statement was not meant to express concern that the FCC would shift funding toward wireless but rather was meant to highlight the fact that a substantial number of those winning funding were able to make the economics of FTTH work under the requirements of the Rural Broadband experiment program. As Telecompetitor has previously reported, those requesting funding were required to bid to provide broadband at a lower level of support than the level calculated through the FCC’s cost model.
In stating that the FTTH Council hoped broadband funding should not be limited to the rural experiments, Gold said she meant that she hopes the results will show that to get any funding through the Connect America Fund program, operators should use fiber-to-the-home.