Another Rural Digital Opportunity Funding Auction?
Given the excess of $11 billion that the Federal Communications Commission currently has in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), interested parties--particularly major broadband providers--have inquired whether the FCC will offer another round of award funding. However, for this to be feasible, the FCC would have to engage in a lot of internal review and restructuring of its reverse auction mechanism if it seeks to revitalize the RDOF. Specifically, the FCC would have to address several issues: who the funds are being allocated and why; how to engage state and local officials in the process; overcoming federal mapping and coverage incompetence; and how to properly utilize funds to support applicants based on demonstrated need and a viable business plan. To address these concerns, the simplest solution would be for the FCC to relinquish its efforts to coordinate and facilitate broadband planning, and to diffuse that responsibility to state broadband offices--who are becoming better-equipped thanks to Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program funding. Doing so would mitigate awards going to "cost-effective" but not "future-proof" broadband providers; overcome the disconnect between the FCC and local needs and accurate mapping, and ultimately allow broadband offices to leverage their own expertise to properly bridge their digital divides.
Another RDOF Auction?