Rural Digital Opportunity Fund

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

Broadband HEROES

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.

America’s Broadband Moment

The debate on whether broadband is a luxury or an essential connection to society is over. More than twice as many people are now using residential broadband during business hours as before the COVID-19 crisis. Over 55 million students have been impacted by school closures. The use of telehealth has skyrocketed. This, I believe, is our broadband moment: a hinge of history that will determine whether today’s residential broadband is fit for the changed world in which we inhabit or whether its limits work to disadvantage those that are not equipped to use it.

What is the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund?

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.

What Did the FCC Do to Close the Digital Divide?

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.

A First for Digital Equity and Broadband Adoption

The House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing entitled Empowering and Connecting Communities Through Digital Equity and Internet Adoption.

The FCC Should Only Fund Scalable, Future-Proof Broadband Networks

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.

Extending Broadband Access in Rural and Native Communities During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond

Representatives of rural and Native communities share stories about the experience of lacking a broadband connection when the service is necessary to work, study, and obtain healthcare, safely. These brief anecdotes illustrate the negative impact that substandard service or lack of service has on the safety and wellbeing of rural and Native communities in general, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors offer the Federal Communications Commission 12 recommendations:

Short-Term Recommendations

FCC's Ajit Pai doubts Elon Musk’s SpaceX broadband-latency claims

While traditional satellite broadband generally suffers from latency of about 600ms, Elon Musk says that SpaceX's Starlink will offer "latency below 20 milliseconds, so somebody could play a fast-response video game at a competitive level." The Federal Communications Commission is not convinced that Starlink broadband network will be able to deliver the low latencies promised.

The FCC has received hundreds of complaints about carriers’ coronavirus pledge

In a statement to the House Commerce Committee, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said the agency has received around 2,200 complaints related to theCOVID-19 pandemic. Of those complaints, 1,400 have received a response from the carrier, Chairman Pai said. Around 500 of those total complaints were filed specifically about the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected Pledge, the agency’s primary response to the pandemic.

FCC Announces Tentative Agenda for June 2020 Open Meeting

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the items below are tentatively on the agenda for the June Open Commission Meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 9, 2020: