Created in 2020 as the successor to Connect America Fund providing up to $20.4 billion over 10 years to connect rural homes and small businesses to broadband networks
Rural Digital Opportunity Fund
In October 2019, the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society issued Broadband for America’s Future: A Vision for the 2020s. The agenda was comprehensive, constructed upon achievements in communities and insights from experts across the nation. The report outlined the key building blocks of broadband policy—deployment, competition, community anchor institutions, and digital equity (including affordability and adoption).
In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the General Assembly is considering Gov. Northam’s request to increase funding to bring better broadband to all Virginians. Such support is important, as students stay home and learn, adults stay home and work, and seniors stay home even as they visit their doctor. Funding for broadband would be an important step — and a wake-up call to the federal government. Virginia’s broadband challenges are multifaceted. In rural areas, nearly a third of households have no access to broadband.
On May 12, House Democrats unveiled the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. "We are presenting a plan to do what is necessary to address the corona crisis," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as she announced the legislation.
On February 7, the Federal Communications Commission released the report and order that creates the framework for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, the latest effort to extend the reach of broadband networks deeper into rural America. The FCC's own research estimates that $80 billion is needed to bring broadband everywhere in the U.S., so the $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is a significant -- although likely insufficient -- step in closing the digital divide over the next decade. Here we review the framework and note some controversy around the FCC decision.
It's budget season. Federal departments and agencies are making their funding requests to Congress for fiscal year 2021 (starting October 1, 2020 and ending September 30, 2021). And part of the ask is reporting how well an agency did achieving its FY 2019 goals. One of the primary goals of the Federal Communications Commission is to close the digital divide in rural America.
The House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing entitled Empowering and Connecting Communities Through Digital Equity and Internet Adoption.
This week the Federal Communications Commission is expected to create the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. As proposed, the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will make available $20.4 billion to subsidize deployment of high-speed internet networks to rural areas that don’t have adequate service now.
Federal Communications Commission policies geared towards improving rural broadband deployment have failed in meaning, money, and mapping.
Vendor chatter for Rural Digital Opportunity Fund heats up on earnings calls; service providers are mum
While carriers were tight-lipped about their Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) prospects during the recent round of earnings reports, vendors talked openly about their opportunities. While the first phase of reverse auctions will run until the bidding stops, vendors are seeing piles of money in the not-too-distant future. While all-fiber is obviously the fastest, best option for reaching rural areas, it's costly. There are also fiber-fed copper access options on the table, but fixed wireless may emerge as a winning formula for bidders such as Windstream and Verizon.