FCC Launches $20 Billion Rural Broadband Fund

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The FCC Friday established the new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) to speed the deployment of high-speed broadband networks in rural America. Through a two-phase reverse auction mechanism, the Commission will direct up to $20.4 billion over ten years to finance up to gigabit speed broadband networks in unserved rural areas.

The first phase of the RDOF will begin later this year and target unserved census blocks with fixed broadband at speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps. 

This phase would make available up to $16 billion. 

Funds will be allocated through a multi-round reverse auction like that used in 2018’s Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II auction. The FCC staff’s preliminary estimate is that about six million rural homes and businesses are located in areas initially eligible for bidding in the Phase I auction. The auction will prioritize bidders committing to provide fast service with low latency. Bidders must also commit to provide a minimum speed more than double than was required in the CAF Phase II auction.

Phase II of the fund will make available at least $4.4 billion to target partially served areas, census blocks where some locations lack access to 25/3 Mbps broadband. Phase II will use the granular, more precise broadband mapping data being developed in the agency’s Digital Opportunity Data Collection, along with census blocks unawarded in the Phase I auction. 

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