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

Senator Wicker Requests Information from FCC on Accelerating Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I Auction

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai requesting information on accelerating the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase I auction. The FCC plans to begin RDOF Phase I, which will make $16 billion available for broadband services, in October 2020. The letter reads, "[G]iven the current increased need for reliable internet during the pandemic, broadband funding, particularly through the RDOF program, may not come soon enough.

FCC To Hold Open Commission Meeting June 9, 2020

The Federal Communications Commission will hold an Open Meeting on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic and related agency telework and headquarters access policies, this meeting will be in a wholly electronic format and will be open to the public on the Internet via live feed from the FCC’s web page and on the FCC’s YouTube channel.

Broadband 'In The Game' for COVID Relief

Democratic congressional staffers are signaling fresh optimism that some money for broadband will make it into another coronavirus relief package long mulled on Capitol Hill. Republicans are “proceeding politically a little more cautiously right now” in deference to GOP leadership, but “we know privately that there are Republicans that would be very supportive of spending more money on E-Rate or Lifeline or Rural Healthcare,” said Joey Wender, senior policy adviser to Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).

Reps Upton, Clyburn Introduce “Rural Broadband Acceleration Act” to Speed Up Access to High-Speed Internet in Rural America

Rep Fred Upton (R-MI) and House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC) announced the introduction of the “Rural Broadband Acceleration Act,” bipartisan legislation that directs the Federal Communications Commission to fund shovel-ready, high-speed internet projects immediately, so consumers can access broadband within a year.

Frontier Backs Down Slightly on Challenges to RDOF Eligible Areas

Frontier told the Federal Communications Commission it would “welcome the inclusion” of the census blocks where it claims to newly offer broadband service into the upcoming Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Seeking to “clarify” its position, Frontier indicated that it would not fight to exclude the 17,000 census blocks in question despite maintaining that it does offer 25/3 Mbps speeds in those areas.

‘Digital Deserts’ Send Doctors Out on House Calls to Fight Virus

The Federal Communications Commission in April estimated that 22.3% of Americans in rural areas and 27.7% of Americans on tribal lands don’t have access to fixed broadband with the typical speed standard of 25 megabits per second (mbps), a moderate browsing speed. By comparison, only 1.5% of Americans in urban areas can’t reach that speed. Nearly 21% of Americans also aren’t active smartphone users, according to market research.

In $16 Billion Push to Expand Broadband, America Is Flying Through a Fog

The Federal Communications Commission is pushing to spend billions of dollars to close gaps in America's high-speed internet network, but government officials say they don't have a clear picture of where service gaps exist, meaning parts of the country will be left out when it is time to distribute the funds. Citing concerns about the data, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wants to delay plans to auction $16 billion to internet-service providers this Oct to upgrade broadband infrastructure in rural areas. “You don’t manage problems you cannot measure,” Commissioner Rosenworcel said.

Chairman Response Regarding Connectivity on Tribal Lands

On April 27, 2020, a group of representatives, led by Congressional Native American Caucus Co-Chairs Deb Haaland (D-NM) and Tom Cole (R-OK), wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai urging the FCC to "grant Tribal Nations and their eligible tribal entities an emergency Special Temporary Authority (STA) to employ the use, on a secondary non-interference basis, of 2.5 GHz spectrum and other efficient, available, and cost effective spectrum on all tribal lands to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic and its current and future effects in Indian Country."

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.