Chairman Pai's Response to California Members of Congress Regarding the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund
On Jan 29, 2020, Reps Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Doris Matsui (D-CA), and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai expressing concern that the FCC was moving forward on its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) in a haphazard manner without consluting states that share the goal of effectively serving residents with broadband. "In particular, the requests of the State of California, the most populous state in the country, are being overlooked....We understand that the staff of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) met with FCC staff to request federa l-state partnerships as part of ROOF, which the FCC has ignored."
On Sept 11, Chairman Pai responded by saying "Far from 'ignor[ing]' their 'request [for] federal-state partnerships as part of RDOF,'' the FCC took into consideration the CPUC's views, as well as comments filed by other state commissions. The problem was a practical one: The CPUC made a generalized request to delay the auction until some unspecified future time in order to develop some new state-specific grant programs for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, but it presented no concrete plan on the way forward. They offered no budget, no methodology for determining where subsidies would be directed, no criteria for provider eligibility, no timeline for distribution of funding and deployment, no auction design-in short, no partnership for the FCC to join as a practical matter. Moreover, their suggestion, if accommodated, would cause significant delay and confusion in the entire program, as the Commission created separate mechanisms and statespecific rules for each state, instead of connecting millions of unserved Americans to broadband networks as quickly as possible. It would cause still further delay to ensure that each state's unique proposed Rural Digital Opportunity Fund mechanism for awarding support operated consistently with the Commission's decision to allocate support using market-based mechanisms."
Chairman Pai's Response to Members of Congress Regarding RDOF