The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote later this month on the rules of its proposed plan to allocate $20.4 billion to broadband providers serving rural Areas of the United States, according to CNET, amedia outlet. The money, which will be distributed over the next decade, will also be made available to cable suppliers, wireless operators and power cooperatives, which are often excluded from government subsidies, with a view to eventually bridging the rural digital divide.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai briefed FCC colleagues wednesday on the proposed rules for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The FCC will vote on the rules on January 30.
“This new fund will target rural areas across the country that currently do not have enough broadband and will deploy high-speed broadband to millions of rural Americans in an efficient and efficient manner,” Pai said in a statement. “
The rule requires a two-stage reverse auction to allocate funds to the fund, which means that the lowest bid will win the auction. The first phase will provide $16 billion for areas of the country that do not have high-speed broadband today. The second stage of the auction will travel to areas partly served by broadband. Areas that do not receive funding in the first phase may continue to bid for funds in the second phase of the auction.
The auction will also give priority to bids from broadband providers, which promise to provide faster speeds. This means that if two bidders meet the FCC’s settlement price, faster bidders will be subsidised. The auction will also give priority to areas that currently lack 10 Mbps Internet download speeds, as will funding for tribal lands. FCC officials told reporters at the briefing that the first phase of the auction is expected to begin later this year.
The agency estimates that about 6 million sites will qualify for the first phase of the auction.
The FCC voted in August to develop the Rural Opportunity Fund, which essentially replaces The Connect America Fund II Auction, which distributes funds to rural operators for universal services. The new fund was established to enable operators to bid for the right to use the funds and to provide broadband services in high-cost areas such as rural communities.
One of the biggest differences between the fund and the FCC’s Connect America Fund II auction is that the fund will also allow any company that provides broadband to bid. This means that the funds will not be limited to existing telephone companies, which traditionally receive government subsidies in the rural market in the first place. Instead, cable providers, utilities and wireless carriers will also be hit by funding for broadband networks.
While the fund’s foundation has bipartisan support in the FCC and Congress, some Democrats argue that the money should not be allocated until the FCC completes work to improve its broadband map to ensure that broadband is accurately known. The FCC’s current form 477 data collection process has been widely criticized for overestimating coverage in some areas.
But FCC officials told reporters that the data used in the first phase of the auction lacked coverage, which was not controversial. Pai said in a blog post on Wednesday that he wants to make the money available to operators serving in rural areas as soon as possible, which is why the auction is divided into two phases. He said that once the FCC obtained more accurate broadband deployment data, it would begin the second phase of the auction to allocate funds to some service areas.
“We don’t want millions of rural Americans to wait longer to get the economic, educational, and health care opportunities offered by high-speed broadband,” Pai said. “