FCC Approves 220 Applicants for $1.98 Billion CAF II Auction

The FCC has approved 220 companies to vie for almost $2 billion in Connect America Fund II money to provide broadband and voice service in unserved, high-cost areas.

Cox, Altice USA, Verizon, Frontier and Cingular are among those that have been qualified to bid in the CAF II auction, which is scheduled to begin July 24. The auction will dispense $1.98 billion over the next 10 years.

Related: FCC Approves Final Pieces of CAF II Auction

The 220 bidders are approved to bid in at least one of the states it selected for service, though not necessarily for others it might have applied for.

There were 57 applications that were not approved -- Shentel and Massilon among them -- though they are still bound by some restrictions on communications about bids or bidding strategies.

There will be a further qualification process for winning bidders, which means that being qualified to bid on a license does not mean a winner is qualified to get the money as well.

FCC chair Ajit Pai encouraged participation by cable and satellite operators, rural co-ops, rural telcos and others.

The FCC gave incumbent telcos the first shot at its Connect America Fund subsidies to deliver fixed broadband to rural communities. The largest incumbent price cap carriers —AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink — declined that $1.98 billion in Connect America Fund phase II (CAF II) support in 20 states, so the FCC opened that pot of money up to competitors, like cable broadband providers, via auction.

All that money is coming from the Universal Service Fund for areas for which there is no business case for building out broadband absent that subsidy.

The FCC simplified bidding options and allowed for bidding by smaller companies, and didn't require companies to identify every area they will serve before bidding.

Click here to check out the qualified bidders.

Click here to see those that did not make the grade

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.