Rural Area

Four years after the Connect America Fund II auction was completed, the FCC said yesterday that it has completed the process of reviewing long-form applications from all winning bidders. There were 195 authorized applicant/state combinations totaling $1.48 billion, as well as some defaults.

Those authorizations include 708,494 locations in 45 states. According to the FCC, more than half of the winning bids were for service at speeds of 100 Mbps downstream and 20 Mbps upstream.

In addition, 10 applicants were authorized to receive CAF II support in conjunction with New York’s New NY Broadband Program. Those applicants will be getting $65.5 million covering 47,200 locations.

Support is to be distributed over a 10-year period. The FCC has been announcing authorizations in batches since the auction was completed.

CAF II Winners Reviewed

The CAF II auction was a precursor to the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction. As in the more recent RDOF auction, the CAF II auction awarded funding to cover some of the costs of deploying broadband to unserved rural areas using a reverse auction.

Funding went to the company that committed to deploy service for the lowest level of government support, assuming the company’s long-form application received FCC authorization and certain other criteria were met. A weighting system favored bids for faster, lower-latency service.

There were 220 bidders in the CAF II auction. Over 100 of them (103) had winning bids.

Satellite broadband provider Viasat was one of the biggest winners in the CAF II auction. Other large winners included Wisper, Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium, and AMG/Nextlink. All those companies had winning bids exceeding $100 million.

Publicly held providers Verizon, Frontier, Cincinnati Bell, Otelco and Hawaiian Telcom also won funding but weren’t among the top winners. Each of them had winning bids of less than $18 million.

While most funding decisions through the CAF program were made at the federal level, the FCC made an exception for New York, which already had a state-level rural broadband funding program in place at the time plans were being formulated for CAF II.

Areas included in the CAF II auction were those where the incumbent telecom provider was a price-cap carrier such as AT&T, Verizon, Lumen/CenturyLink, Frontier, or Consolidated.

The FCC offered funding to the price cap carriers to upgrade unserved locations in their local service territory and most of them took most of the money they were offered. Areas for which the price cap carriers did not accept funding were eligible for the auction.

CAF II winning bidders’ long-form applications are now available for public inspection on the FCC website. A public notice released yesterday explains how to do that and details what information has been redacted from the applications.

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