The FCC has released a preliminary list of areas eligible for the RDOF auction, or Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction, Phase 1. The auction will award funding to cover some of the costs of bringing broadband to rural areas where service is not currently available.
Census blocks on the preliminary list are in areas where the incumbent carrier is one of the nation’s price cap carriers and are based on data reported by service providers on FCC Form 477, as of June 2019. Only census blocks shown to totally lack voice and broadband service at speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps are included.
The commission also established a limited challenge process for the preliminary list of eligible areas. Challenges must be made by April 10, 2020 and challenges must fall into one of three categories:
- Areas considered eligible but where voice and 25/3 Mbps broadband has been deployed since June 30, 2019.
- Areas considered eligible but for which a provider has an enforceable commitment to offer broadband at 25/3 Mbps or faster and for which a federal or state broadband subsidy has already been paid or a formal commitment has been executed.
- Areas within rate-of-return carrier service areas where the carrier does not expect to extend broadband in satisfaction of their Universal Service Fund deployment obligations.
The third category is the only one of the three that would potentially add eligible areas. The others would make areas on the preliminary eligible list ineligible.
That means the challenge process does not address a widespread concern about Form 477 data: It considers an entire census block to be served, even if only a single location has service available to it. The FCC has made changes to how it collects broadband availability data to correct this for future data collections, and a Phase 2 auction will be based on that data. But at least one FCC commissioner has argued that the challenge process for Phase 1 should offer a means of adding unserved locations in partially unserved census blocks to the list of areas eligible for the Phase 1 auction.
Areas Eligible for RDOF Auction, Phase 1
A map of areas on the preliminary list of areas eligible for the Phase 1 auction can be found at this link.
Additional details, including a full list of the eligible census blocks and reserve prices, can be found here.