FCC works to ‘refocus’ RDOF funding

Meanwhile, new third-party analysis finds that 22.5% of U.S. households do not have home Internet, and more than a quarter of a million are still dependent on calls

The Federal Communications Commission says it is ready to authorize nearly $ 164 million for 42 providers in a second round of funding through the Rural Digital Opportunities Fund (RDOF). Meanwhile, in an ongoing effort to “restructure the program” to ensure that funding actually goes to unserviced areas that need broadband, the agency said 85 winning bidders have chosen not to pursue buildout in 5,089 census blocks.

The FCC said the 42 providers set to receive funding in this wave will bring fiber-based gigabit broadband to about 65,000 locations in 21 states over the next decade. The long-form applicants and the areas they plan to serve are available here.

In July, the commission sent letters to nearly 200 winning RDOF bidders, giving them the chance to withdraw their funding requests in areas where there was “evidence of service or where waste issues have been raised.”

“In response to these letters, many winning bidders have conducted new due diligence in those areas and many have decided not to pursue support in the identified areas,” the FCC said in a press release.

The Competitive Carriers Association was among the voices raising concern over RDOF funding decisions, saying it had identified more than $ 1 billion out of the $ 20 billion 10-year program that might go to areas that probably already had fixed or mobile service that meets the FCC’s 25/3 Mbps requirements. The CCA found that 5.5% of RDOF allocation sites “probably include sites that have access to at least 25/3 Mbps fixed broadband”, and about 6.9% of RDOF sites “likely” have access to fixed or mobile broadband that meets the threshold of 25.3, according to the report based on the analysis and filed with the FCC.

The FCC said it “continues to carefully review applications from other winning bidders in length
previously announced to ensure that they meet the technical, financial and operational capabilities of compliance with program commitments. ”

Meanwhile, recently released analysis from Reviews.org estimates that nearly one in four households in the United States does not have broadband service, and nearly a quarter of a million households are still dependent on dial-up service.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, Reviews.org ranked each state and county by the percentage of households that subscribe to a broadband, satellite, or dial-up connection to the Internet.

“Nearly a quarter (22.5%) of U.S. households use public Wi-Fi or other means to jump online — a modern travesty given that more and more of daily life is taking place on the Internet,” wrote Catherine McNally, editorial director for internet and games at Reviews.org. “The number of households without internet is greater than the total number of households in 13 states combined.”

The analysis found that the most connected states — those with the highest percentage of the population with an Internet service of some kind — were Utah, Colorado, and California, and the least connected states were Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama. In general, the least connected states are grouped in the south, while states with a higher percentage of affiliated households are in the northeast and western United States. The least connected states also tend to have a large percentage of rural households and a high rural poverty rate.

In related news, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) recently published the proposed service areas for all applications reviewed through the Broadband Infrastructure Program to provide fixed broadband service to areas that do not. Service providers have provided the information voluntarily, and NTIA will consider it a factor in evaluating applications for the $ 288 million program of funding. Existing service providers can provide information on all services offered in the proposed service areas, broken down by census block, until 19 October. More information can be found here.

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