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

FCC under fire from senators over rural broadband funding limitations

The Federal Communications Commission’s latest plan to expand high-speed internet access across the country has come under criticism by Members of Congress who fear over $20 billion in funding might not make it to the communities that need it most. Two dozen senators wrote to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai denouncing the FCC's new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF).

FCC Proposes Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Auction Procedures

The Federal Communications Commission proposed procedures for the first phase of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction, which will make up to $16 billion available for the deployment of fixed broadband networks across rural America. The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is targeting funding towards some of the least-served parts of the country and October’s Phase I auction could bring high-speed broadband to as many six million unserved homes and businesses in 2020, representing the FCC’s biggest step ever toward bridging the digital divide.

The FCC’s New Initiative Punishes States That Have Tried to Close the Digital Divide

In a surprise move, between the publication of the draft Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Report and Order and the Federal Communications Commission’s final vote on the Report and Order, the FCC added the line stating that census blocks receiving “funding through other similar federal or state broadband subsidy programs” would be ineligible for Phase I RDOF funds.

Members Urge FCC to Reconsider Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Order

Rep A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) led 22 of his colleagues from the House Commerce Committee in sending a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai requesting that the FCC reconsider the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Order in light of the last-minute language added to the adopted Order and released Feb 7.

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.

In states, concerns with fairness of FCC's rural broadband fund

Amid widely conflicting reports of how many Americans truly lack access to high-speed internet, state broadband officials said that there’s too much funding at stake to rely on the Federal Communications Commission’s unreliable census-block data.

Areas Receiving ReConnect or State Broadband Support Won’t be Eligible for RDOF Auction

Areas that receive broadband funding through the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) ReConnect program or a state broadband program will not be eligible to receive funding through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). In the RDOF Report and Order, adopted Jan 30 and released publicly on Feb 7, the Federal Communications Commission justified the decision by noting that it was “consistent with our overarching goal of ensuring that finite universal service support is awarded in an efficient and cost-effective manner and does not go toward overbuilding areas that already have service.”

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.

Chairman Pai Visits Wind River Reservation In Wyoming To See Gigabit-Speed Broadband Deployment

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai visited the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. He met with Northern Arapaho Tribal representatives and toured areas that are receiving funding from the FCC to deploy gigabit-speed broadband. Specifically, Wind River Internet—the provider—is receiving $4.1 million from the Connect America Fund Phase II auction to deploy gigabit-speed service to 849 rural homes and businesses on the reservation

FCC Mapping Rules Draw Fresh Criticism Amid $20.4B Disbursal

Stakeholder reactions to the Federal Communications Commission's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund have been mixed. The new FCC money will be divvied up in two phases, with the first distributing the majority of the funds, $16 billion, to Census blocks where data shows no service is available. What some stakeholders take issue with, however, is that the FCC is using Form 477 data, which has driven its funding in the past but has also been widely criticized.