In its latest release of funding for rural broadband experiments, the FCC awarded $16 million to four carriers for rural broadband deployments in territories previously served by price cap carriers. The $16 million will bring broadband service to 2,451 census blocks across five states, reports the FCC.
A total of $16,138,691.71 was awarded to Skybeam, LLC; Daktel Communications, LLC; Federated Telephone Cooperative; and Paul Bunyan Rural Telephone Cooperative. These winners were provisionally selected previously, but were required to provide at least one acceptable irrevocable stand-by letter of credit and a bankruptcy code opinion letter from legal counsel. Having met these requirements, the FCC released the funding through the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).
Skybeam is an affiliate of fixed wireless provider Rise Broadband, who has been quite active in the rural broadband experiment program. Federated and Paul Bunyan are Minnesota based rural telcos, and Daktel is a rural telco based in North Dakota.
Rural Broadband Experiments Funding
The funding is part of the $100 million rural broadband experiments funding program, announced back in 2014. The program aims to fund experiments for providing broadband in rural territories, and results from these experiments will help shape the overall Connect America Fund (CAF) program.
The goal behind this experimental program is to identify efficient methods for delivering broadband and the funding to support it, to rural markets where larger price cap carriers (large tier 1 and 2 telcos) choose not to serve. The CAF is providing funding for rural broadband, but gives price cap carriers the option of rejecting funding for certain rural markets.
There will be a reverse auction to provide funding to other carriers who want to come in and fill the rural broadband void left from these price cap carrier rejection decisions. Rural broadband experiments funding like this awarded $16 million aims to help the FCC better define the rules for awarding future coverage under the CAF plan.