The FCC has given its final approval to Consolidated Communications, Conexon and Cox for funding won in the Rural Digital Opportunities Fund (RDOF) auction. In addition, several dozen smaller winners received their final approval in the program.
Among the smaller winners were rural telecom providers, cable companies, fixed wireless companies and electric cooperatives.
The RDOF program was designed 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 deploying service for the lowest level of support. A weighting system favored bids to provide faster service with lower latency.
The auction was completed one year ago. Shortly after, winning bidders were required to complete a long-form application providing additional detail about capabilities and finances. When the FCC has reviewed and approved that application, a winning bidder is declared “ready to authorize” at which point the company has about two weeks to obtain a bankruptcy opinion letter and letter of credit before receiving final approval.
The FCC has been taking its time in reviewing winning bidders’ long-form applications, as concerns have been expressed about some of the largest winning bidders. Critics have questioned whether some of those companies have the resources to complete the deployments to which they committed. Questions also have been raised about some of the technologies that winning bidders plan to use, including gigabit fixed wireless and low-earth orbit satellites.
Ten companies had three quarters of the winning bids, and the FCC to date has released only a small portion of that funding.
Although Cox and Consolidated are larger than most RDOF winning bidders, they were not among the top 10. Conexon bid as part of the Rural Electric Cooperative Consortium, which was one of the largest winning bidders. Entities that bid as consortia were later allowed to split up their winnings by consortium member.
Consolidated Communications had funding approved for operations in Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Northern New England, Texas and Vermont. Cox had funding approved for Arizona, California, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma and Virginia.
A full list of companies whose RDOF funding was approved in this round is available here.