The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is the Commission’s next step in bridging the digital divide to efficiently fund the deployment of broadband networks in rural America. Through a two-phase reverse auction mechanism, the FCC will direct up to $20.4 billion over ten years to finance up to gigabit speed broadband networks in unserved rural areas, connecting millions of American homes and businesses to digital opportunity.
The RDOF Phase I auction is currently scheduled to begin on October 22, 2020 and will target over six million homes and businesses in census blocks that are entirely unserved by voice and broadband with speeds of at least 25/3 Mbps. Phase II will cover locations in census blocks that are partially served, as well as locations not funded in Phase I.
RDOF Report and Order
On January 30, 2020, the Commission adopted the RDOF Report and Order (Report and Order) establishing a framework and rules for an RDOF auction to distribute support for connecting millions more homes and small businesses in rural areas to broadband networks. The Report and Order was released on February 7, 2020. In the item, the Commission established a total budget of $20.4 billion, with up to $16 billion for a Phase I auction to target wholly unserved census blocks; the methodology for compiling a list of eligible areas; the approach for calculating reserve prices in eligible areas; public interest obligations for recipients; the eligibility requirements; and the post-auction obligations and oversight measures. The Commission also adopted rules for competitive bidding for the RDOF auction and provided guidance about the procedures that it would use in the auction process. Phase II of the program 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 using the granular, precise broadband mapping data being developed in the FCC’s Digital Opportunity Data Collection (DODC), along with census blocks unawarded in the Phase I auction.
RDOF Auction Procedures Public Notice
In the Report and Order, the Commission left the specific details of the RDOF auction to be developed as part of the pre-auction process. Accordingly, on February 28, the Commission adopted a Public Notice: Comment Sought on Competitive Bidding Procedures and Certain Program Requirements for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Auction (Public Notice). Through this Public Notice, the Commission is initiating the pre-auction process for Phase I of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction (Auction 904). In accord with the framework adopted in the Report and Order, Auction 904 will award up to $16 billion over ten years to service providers that commit to offer voice and broadband services to fixed locations in eligible unserved high-cost census blocks. The Public Notice states that the Commission currently expects bidding in Auction 904 to begin on October 22, 2020.
The Commission is seeking comment on the Public Notice as follows:
- Comments are due: March 27, 2020
- Reply Comments are due: April 10, 2020
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
RDOF auction related questions, including how to apply to participate in the RDOF Auction, should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.