Rural electric utilities don't want untried technologies competing for the $16 billion in rural broadband subsidies the FCC is going to be handing out.
The commission voted Tuesday (June 9) on the framework for its Rural Digital Opportunities Fund (RDOF) and a reverse auction for that money, including agreeing its approach would be tech neutral, but also that the money should only go to providers who have the money and experience and the technology to actually deliver high speed broadband of the quality the FCC requires.
FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly secured assurances in that framework of its tech neutrality, as well as an openness to new tech, both in the current auction for unserved and a follow-on auction of $4.4 billion for underserved rural areas.
But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also said the FCC is open to new tech that meets its standards, including potentially low-earth-orbit-satellite-delivered broadband.
The Utilities Technology Council wants to make sure the FCC is not welcoming unproven tech.
"The Utilities Technology Council [UTC] looks forward to reviewing the Federal Communications Commission’s public notice and appreciates its decision today finalizing the bidding rules for the first phase of the RDOF auction. As we await the final text of the order, we hope the order will ensure that the RDOF funding be carefully awarded to entities deploying technologies that have historically proven to be able to provide reliable high-speed broadband. We must invest in future-proof broadband for America. Broadband is increasingly becoming an essential service. It is therefore critical that the FCC provide strong oversight mechanisms to ensure the federal funds being dispersed go to those entities that are able to meet the high standards under the order."
UTC said it recognized the need for tech neutrality, but that will require "appropriate oversight and penalties to discourage bidders from defrauding the government and depriving consumers of the quality of services they promised to provide.”
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