ACA, NTCA, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association have jointly asked the FCC to hold an auction next year to distribute support under the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) announced by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last month, and they urged the agency not to wait for the implementation of proposed improvements to collect more granular broadband mapping data.
They acknowledged that “there are numerous proposals for collecting more granular broadband deployment, but no solution is going to be implemented for some time — certainly not for the next year when it would be time to move forward with the RDOF. Moreover, even with the granular collection proposals on the table, it will be difficult to ensure the data accurately reflect served and unserved locations, especially for providers using network technologies where coverage and performance can be highly variable. Thus, even in the long run, a challenge process appears necessary to ensuring deployment data are accurate.”
Chairman Pai told reporters that the RDOF would use monies repurposed from the Connect America Fund, which are due to phase out in 2021, to inject $20.4 billion into broadband networks in rural areas over the next decade to extend broadband services to up to four million homes and small businesses (TR Daily, April 12). At the time, he said that he wants the FCC to launch a proceeding later this year to establish the new fund, but he was not more specific on timing. “We want to get this program stood up as soon as we can,” he said.
The Commission subsequently opened WC docket 19-126 for filings related to the RDOF (TR Daily, April 30).
In their letter filed yesterday in WC docket 19-126 and 11-10, ACA, NTCA, and NRECA said, “By moving to ensure that rural areas in price cap carrier territories have broadband service that is comparable to the increasing performance provided in urban areas, you will further ensure that rural residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions have the connectivity to fully participate in our 21st Century economy and society. In a recent news story, a Federal Communications Commission (Commission) spokesperson was quoted as saying that the Commission will start this year to launch the RDOF and hold the auction in 2020. We support such prompt action, which would best serve the interests of rural consumers and the overall public interest.”
They added, “With the price cap CAF Phase II cost-model program ending in about two years, the Commission should seize this great opportunity and proceed promptly to award the next phase of support and drive the availability of even higher performance broadband services throughout rural America.”
The trade associations continued, “Indeed, the Commission can move expeditiously with the RDOF precisely because of the extensive work that went into the CAF Phase II auction. First, by using the latest Form 477 data in conjunction with a robust challenge process, the Commission can more accurately identify unserved census blocks and target support to where it is needed. … Further, the rules used for the CAF Phase II program provide a sound foundation upon which to develop the rules for the RDOF. No doubt certain parameters of the new program will require updating and revision based upon lessons learned from the CAF Phase II program and auction. But, because a proven framework exists, we can build on that to quickly analyze shortcomings and make targeted refinements.”
They concluded, “We urge you to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking as soon as possible to develop rules for the new program and then complete action by later this year. By holding the auction in 2020, you will provide unserved consumers in price cap carrier territories with the connectivity that is essential to their future.” —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
MainStory: FederalNews FCC BroadbandDeployment UniversalServiceLifeline
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