Grants Funding

The FCC said today that it is ready to approve funding totaling $199 million to more than 20 companies that had winning bids in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction.

This is the latest in a string of RDOF ready-to-authorize announcements that the commission has made over the last year or so. But although the majority of the $9.2 billion tentatively awarded in the auction has now been committed, several of the top 10 winning bidders are still waiting to hear from the FCC on their funding.

The top 10 winners accounted for about three quarters of winning bids. Today’s list is comprised almost entirely of companies that won smaller amounts – although Mercury Wireless accounts for dozens of pages in the 117-page list, with winning bids in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Kansas.

There also were a few winning bids on the list for Qwest, which is now part of CenturyLink/Lumen — one of the largest winning bidders that already has received approval elsewhere. Other notable winners from this current list include CableOne, Conexon, Tombigbee Electric Co-op, and Wisper.

Winning bidders are put on a ready-to-authorize list when the FCC has reviewed and approved their long-form application. They then have about two weeks to submit a letter of credit and bankruptcy opinion letter before they can be fully authorized.

Missing Big Winning Bidders

Most of the companies on the top 10 list that have been authorized or deemed ready-to-authorize plan to rely primarily or fully on fiber broadband for their RDOF deployments. Among them are Charter, Lumen/CenturyLink, Frontier, Windstream and various members of Rural Electric Cooperative Consortia.

Most of the companies on the top 10 list that have not yet been deemed ready-to-authorize plan to use other technologies instead of or in addition to fiber broadband. This includes SpaceX, which plans to use low-earth orbit satellites, and three companies that plan to use gigabit fixed wireless and fiber – NextLink, Resound Networks and Starry.

The only company in the top 10 planning to rely primarily on fiber that has not yet appeared on a ready-to-authorize list is LTD Broadband, which was the biggest winning bidder in the auction with winning bids totaling over $1 billion. That company has been heavily criticized by those who believe it does not have the resources to meet its deployment commitments.

Today’s ready-to-authorize list comes out the same day that the FCC proposed a fine against LTD Broadband for apparent prohibited communications during the auction quiet period.

Also today the FCC announced that several companies had forfeited some of their RDOF winning bids. A complete list of those forfeitures is available at this link.

Today’s ready-to-authorize list is available here.

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