The FCC said today that it is ready to authorize over $1 billion in RDOF funding for rural broadband deployments. About 60 winning bidders are on the ready-to-authorize list, including Windstream, Ziply, Hawaiian Telcom, Talkie and numerous smaller companies and winners of relatively small amounts of funding.
The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction tentatively awarded $9.2 billion to cover some of the costs of bringing broadband to unserved rural areas using a reverse auction, in which funding for an area went to the company that committed to bringing service there for the lowest level of support.
Winning bidders are declared ready-to-authorize when the FCC has reviewed and approved their long-form applications. The companies then have about two weeks to obtain a letter of credit and bankruptcy opinion letter before their funding can be fully authorized.
The Bigger Winners on the List
The Windstream bids that the FCC is ready to authorize are for Pennsylvania. The commission previously said it was ready to authorize Windstream RDOF bids for 12 other states. Windstream was one of the 10 largest winning bidders in the RDOF auction and is rare among the largest winning bidders in having been declared ready-to-authorize.
The Ziply bids that the FCC is ready to authorize are for Montana, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. Ziply is the owner of the former Frontier business in the Northwest.
Although Talkie is not a household name in the broadband business, its winning bids – all for Delaware and Maryland — fill dozens of pages in the nearly 200 pages of winning bids on the new ready-to-authorize list. Talkie’s winning bids were controversial in that at least one company that bid against it questioned whether the company could complete the fiber broadband builds to which it committed in the time frame required.
Some other controversial winning bids have not yet been deemed ready-to-authorize, including those for some of the largest winning bidders, including SpaceX and LTD Broadband, as well as several companies whose bids were based on using gigabit fixed wireless for some of their deployments.
LTD Broadband was the largest winning bidder and critics have questioned whether it has the resources to meet its build-out commitments. The SpaceX and gigabit fixed wireless bids have been questioned because critics say the bids are based on using technologies not proven in rural areas.
Also today, the FCC said it had rejected the RDOF long-form application from Hotwire and released a list of defaulted bids. The defaulted bids resulted, at least in part, from previous commission action. Winning bidders received lists of census blocks from the FCC that critics said were ineligible for the auction and some of the bidders told the commission that they would not pursue deployments in some of the areas in question.
The new list of bids that the FCC is ready to authorize can be found here.
The list of defaulted bids can be found here.