FCC Cites 'Unprecedented' Interest in Rural Broadband Bucks

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The FCC said that almost 400 applicants have qualified to bid in the upcoming Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase 1 auction, which is scheduled to launch Oct. 29.

Related: FCC Finalizes RDOF-Eligible Areas

The FCC also said that the 386 applicants are a 75% increase over the number of bidders in the 2018 Connect America Fund Phase II auction, which was the forerunner of RDOF.

In the reverse auction, up to $16 billion is available in subsidies for rural broadband buildouts over 10 years.

The money will go to census tracks lacking the FCC's definition of minimum high-speed broadband service.

The FCC has said those eligible areas have about 5.3 million unserved homes, or perhaps upwards of 10 million people, as well as businesses.

Related: FCC Launches 2021 Broadband Deployment Data Collection

While anything over the FCC's 25 mbps upstream/3 mbps downstream high speed definition is eligible for the money, the FCC will prioritize bids for higher speeds and lower latency. 

“The unprecedented interest in this auction is due in large part to key decisions by the FCC, including providing substantial funding and promoting technological neutrality toward potential bidding participants, as well as our staff’s extensive work to spread awareness of the program and ensure the broadest participation in a competitive auction that will deliver real benefits to rural Americans across the country," said FCC chairman Ajit Pai.

John Eggerton

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.