With the U.S. Federal Communication Commission’s Connect America Fund auction on the books, some 103 service providers will receive $1.488 billion over the next decade to build out rural broadband infrastructure to a projected 713,176 homes and businesses in 45 states. The FCC says those locations will have access to broadband speeds of at least 100 Mbps.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the “first-of-its-kind auction” is “the most appropriate and cost effective way to allocate funding for broadband in these unserved communities, bringing the highest-quality broadband services to the most consumers at the lowest cost to the ratepayer.”
Per the terms of the funding, service providers receiving aid have to reach 40% of locations in a state within three years of funding authorization and construction must increase 20% each year with the goal of finishing in year six. According to the FCC, 19% of locations will get access to gigabit service.
This round of funding is just one prong of the FCC’s rural broadband and cellular strategy. The Mobility Fund II auction is designed to allocated $4.53 billion to expand LTE coverage in rural markets and the Connect America Fund will shell out $9 billion over six years for rural buildout in areas served by major carriers.
The FCC recently extended to Nov. 26 the period wherein carriers can challenge the mobile network coverage maps used to determine where the $4.5 billion in Mobility Fund II dollars will be spent. There’s broad concern that the maps, published in 2018 and based on a one-time collection of LTE coverage data, are not accurate.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who supported the extension decision in part and dissented in part, said that the maps “have too many inaccuracies to be reliable. They overstate signal strength in rural America and understate where universal service support is needed to ensure that communities are not left behind. And if we’re not careful, this agency will distribute as much as $4.53 billion over the next decade based on this less than credible set of data. Yikes.”\