The Federal Communications Commission is planning to finalize draft procedures for the $16 billion phase one Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) next month, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced today.
“We’ve designed this auction to ensure robust participation, with incentives for bidders to build high-performance networks so we get fast broadband to as many as six million American homes and business that aren’t currently connected,” Pai said in a statement.
The first phase, or Auction 904, requires internet service providers to offer minimum 25 megabits per second (MBPS) download and 3 MBPS upload speeds to improve upon the current 10/1 MBPS speeds. The areas must be wholly unserved to qualify for funding. Phase II will provide $4.4 billion in census blocks that are partially served, as well as locations not funded in Phase I, according to FCC.
There is a two-stage application process for Phase I, a short form application and a long form. On the short form, entities must show two years of experience providing “a voice, broadband, and/or electric distribution or transmission service and submit one year of audited financials,” according to the FCC.
On the long form, “applications must also provide additional information about qualifications, funding, and the network they intend to use to meet their obligations.”
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Pai said COVID-19 has underscored that every American needs to have access to high-speed broadband as soon as possible, which is why the agency is moving “full speed ahead” with RDOF.
Auction 904 will prioritize bidders who agree to offer even faster upload and download speeds and lower latency, or the amount of time it takes for data to be transferred from one place to another.
He said the bidding procedures will help providers plan for the auction so they can know how much support they will need to provide service to eligible areas.
The first phase is modeled after the Connect America Fund Phase II auction in 2018, which is where FCC allocated funds through a multi-round reverse auction to reform and modernize its universal service support programs.
Interested parties are encouraged to apply electronically by July 15; bidding is scheduled for October 29, 2020.
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