As the FCC entered rural broadband month, it voted on several items devoted to expanding broadband to unserved and underserved areas at its meeting yesterday. That includes initiating the next phase of the Connect America auction. Set to start in 2018, it would distribute up to $198 million annually in subsidies over a 10-year period to providers that commit to offer voice and broadband service to fixed locations in unserved high-cost areas.
The notice adopted yesterday seeks comment on bidding specifics. USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter said the proceeding “pushes the ball closer” to making the funds available.
The Commissioners also voted to approve a robust challenge process to enable the agency to direct Mobility Fund Phase II support to primarily rural areas that lack unsubsidized 4G LTE service. CTIA VP Regulatory Affairs Scott Bergmann said: “A tailored data collection will be key to making efficient use of scarce universal service Funds.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the agency would be conducting “a special, one-time data collection” effort for the Mobility Fund auction rather than relying on the data it has. The Commissioners also voted to overhaul how the Commission collects Form 477 data to ensure accuracy and reduce burdens on companies that provide the data on fixed and mobile voice and broadband service.
“Fulfilling FCC data requests is neither quick nor inexpensive, which is why the agency’s decision to consider how to simplify its Form 477 data collection practices is both smart and practical,” said Spalter. The item “targets areas where we need help and measures our progress,” said Pai. “We want to make sure we only collect data we actually need.”