The FCC yesterday released a preliminary list of census blocks eligible for the Connect America Fund auction. That auction will award funding to help cover the cost of bringing service to areas that cannot get broadband today or can only get low-speed broadband.
The list released yesterday by the FCC also includes an estimate of the maximum amount of funding that will be available for each census block based on an FCC-developed cost model. The Connect America Fund auction will use a competitive bidding process to award funding, with funding for a group of census blocks or census tracts going to the service provider that offers to provide service for the lowest level of support.
The preliminary list is based on the most recent data collected from Form 477 as of June 30, 2015. All broadband service providers are required to file Form 477, which collects data about where service is available at various speeds.
Service providers have until the end of this month to advise the commission if they have deployed broadband at speeds of 10 Mbps downstream/ 1 Mbps upstream in any of the target census blocks since the Form 477 data was collected. Based on this data, the FCC will eliminate some locations from the Connect America Fund auction target list. In order to be eliminated, the newly served locations also must have a minimum usage allowance of 150 gigabytes at a price meeting the commission’s current reasonable comparability benchmark and must have a latency not exceeding 100 ms.
According to a public notice also issued by the FCC yesterday, the commission expects to release a revised list of census blocks eligible for the Connect America Fund and revised maximum bids “roughly three months prior to the short-form application deadline” for the auction.
Determining Census Blocks for Connect America Fund Auction
Some but not all of the census blocks targeted for the Connect America Fund auction are in areas of price cap carrier territories where the price cap carrier declined to deliver service at the model-based level of support. Also on the list are extremely high-cost census blocks, where the cost model calculates a level of support higher than $198.60 a month, which is the cap for the program. The maximum level of support that would be awarded through the Connect America Fund auction for extremely high-cost areas would actually be no more than $146.10 monthly according to current data.
A variety of other factors also caused the list issued yesterday to not match up precisely with the list of census blocks rejected by the price cap carriers. For example, the latest list includes census blocks that are now classified as high-cost as a result of the commission’s decision to average costs at the census block level. This and other factors impacting the census block list are detailed in the public notice.
Also yesterday the FCC released a U.S. map illustrating census blocks that would be eligible for the Connect America Fund auction based on the preliminary data.