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
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.
I work with communities all of the time that want to know if they are unserved or underserved by broadband. I've started to tell them to toss away those two terms, which is not a good way to think about broadband today. The main reason to scrap these terms is that they convey the idea that 25/3 Mbps broadband ought to be an acceptable target speed for building new broadband. Urban America has moved far beyond the kinds of broadband speeds that are being discussed as acceptable for rural broadband. Cable companies now have minimum speeds that vary between 100 Mbps and 200 Mbps.
The most likely scenario for success is the addition of broadband service to an existing electric or telephone cooperative’s portfolio. In this case, an entity with experience in running a customer-facing operation and network for decades simply expands its service. The cooperatives are already serving mostly rural customers and do not crowd out for-profit cable and telecom providers. The Federal Communications Commission has recognized this and has explicitly included electric cooperatives in the Connect America Fund II initiative.
Frontier has filed a waiver request with the Federal Communications Commission, the resolution of which could impact the company’s ability to participate in Phase 1 of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, scheduled to begin in Oct. Frontier entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April.