Last week, the Wireline Competition Bureau opened the application filing window for parties interested in participating in the Commission’s rural broadband experiments.  Already we have seen activity in the online system we are using to accept the applications, with many entities working on their applications.   Interested parties have until 6 p.m. on Friday, November 7 to submit applications for this funding opportunity.     

The opening of the filing window marks a historic occasion.  For the first time, the Commission is using a competitive bidding process to award ongoing Connect America Fund support that will bring broadband to rural America.  Applicants have the opportunity to bid on $100 million in available funding through the rural broadband experiments, with defined criteria for the level of service we expect winning bidders to provide and an objective, clear-cut methodology for selecting winning applications.  

Already, we’ve learned a lot from these experiments:  working on the nitty-gritty details of the application form, doing outreach to get the word out to potential bidders, and getting the online system up and running.  Once the application window closes, we’ll be learning about competitive interest to build networks to rural communities that will deliver services that far exceed the Commission’s current performance standards.  And I’m sure we will learn something unexpected that will help the Commission make decisions regarding the design of the Phase II auction that will occur after the offer of model-based support to price cap carriers. 

We’re eager to learn how competition can drive support to efficient levels.  As Chairman Wheeler has stated, “competition holds the promise of better services at lower costs – it is time to use that dynamic for the benefit of rural America.”  We agree, and we expect the rural broadband experiments to be the first step towards unleashing that competition in rural America.