The FCC said today that it is ready to authorize funding for 42 companies that were among the smaller winning bidders in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction. Also today, the FCC released a list of defaulted census blocks where companies that won funding for those blocks have said they will not pursue RDOF deployments.
The total value of the support that is ready to be authorized is $163 million. Although the FCC didn’t provide the total value of the anticipated defaults, the list of expected census block defaults runs to more than 150 pages.
The total value of winning bids in the RDOF auction was $9.2 billion. The auction was designed to award funding to the company that committed to deploying service to unserved rural areas for the lowest level of government support.
But although the auction was completed last year, only a small fraction of funding has been authorized or deemed ready to authorize. Those companies on today’s “ready to authorize” list have until October 22 to submit letters of credit and bankruptcy opinion letters before receiving final authorization.
The RDOF auction has received considerable criticism on several fronts. One issue is that bidders weren’t required to submit detailed financial information unless and until they had winning bids. Another concern is whether some winning bidders have the resources to build out all the census blocks on which they were allowed to bid. Additionally, concerns have been raised about whether the fixed wireless and satellite broadband technologies that some winning bidders plan to use for their deployments can meet speed and performance requirements.
Yet another concern is whether some of the census blocks included in the auction were truly unserved rural areas.
The latter concern drove the FCC to send lists of disputed census blocks to the winning bidders for those blocks in July. List recipients were invited to opt not to receive funding for those blocks. Companies choosing that option could be subject to default penalties but the FCC at the time invited companies choosing not to deploy disputed census blocks to explain why and said it would take those explanations into consideration in determining whether to impose penalties.
The list of anticipated census block defaults released today was assembled based on winning bidders’ responses to those invitations from the FCC.
A full list of companies on the “ready to authorize” list can be found at this link.
A full list of census blocks targeted for default can be found here. Corrections to that list are also due October 22.