FCC Confirms $121 Million for Rural Broadband Funding in 16 States

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission has authorized more than $121 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband to 36,579 unserved rural homes and businesses in 16 states. Funds will come from the Connect America Fund Phase II auction.

Separately, the commission on Monday OK'd nearly $16.2 million in funding to expand broadband to nearly 8,100 unserved homes and businesses in rural upstate New York in a matching fund partnership with the New NY Broadband Program.

RELATED: FCC Announces Second Wave of Rural Broadband Funds 

The federal funding is being provided through the FCC’s Connect America Fund (CAF), which is part of the Commission's goal to close the digital divide in rural America. On August 1, the FCC unanimously voted to create the "Rural Digital Opportunity Fund" which will distribute $20.4 billion in Universal Service Fund  subsidies for rural broadband over the next decade. Funds can go to cable broadband providers as well as telecoms.

This week's funding represents the fourth wave of support from last year’s CAF Phase II auction. Providers will begin receiving financial awards later this month.

"I am excited to see the benefits for rural residents who live all across the country," FCC chairman Ajit Pai said of the 16-state CAF grants. “This round of funding is yet another step toward closing the digital divide,providing access to digital opportunity to over 36,000 more unserved rural homes and businesses.” As for the New York state funding, Pai characterized "our partnership with New York" as example of approaches that "will help bring the opportunities that high-speed Internet offers Upstate.”

The FCC has already authorized three waves of funding in May, June and July. Monday's action brings total authorized funding to more than $924 million, expanding connectivity to 342,097 homes and businesses. Additional funding rounds will be authorized in the coming months, the FCC said.

The latest funding approvals include Northern Arapaho Tribal Industries in Wyoming, which will deliver gigabit-speed services to 849 homes and businesses on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming; Tri-Co Connections in Pennsylvania; and Midcontinent Communications, which will deploy services to 9,371 homes and businesses in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Those customers will get broadband services at speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream/20 Mbps upstream.

Altogether, this round of CAF funding went to rural providers in Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The New York state funding is going to telecom providers in 14 counties, with expected installations ranging from one to about 3,000 sites in the service area of each provider.

Providers must deploy broadband services to 40% of the assigned homes and businesses in their areas within three years. Buildouts must increase by 20% in each subsequent year, until complete deployment is achieved by the end of the sixth year.

A map of winning bids is available here.

Gary Arlen

Contributor Gary Arlen is known for his insights into the convergence of media, telecom, content and technology. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the longtime “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports. He writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs. Gary has taught media-focused courses on the adjunct faculties at George Mason University and American University and has guest-lectured at MIT, Harvard, UCLA, University of Southern California and Northwestern University and at countless media, marketing and technology industry events. As President of Arlen Communications LLC, he has provided analyses about the development of applications and services for entertainment, marketing and e-commerce.