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FCC Announces $554 Million Broadband Opportunity Fund Program

October 21, 2021 by Reece Nations

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission announced on Wednesday it is set to approve a total of $554,150,641 for the third round of funding in deployments of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

The FCC previously announced over $1 billion in funding to winning bidders for new deployments throughout the past two waves of funding under the program. In this round of funding, 11 broadband providers will be allowed to establish broadband service to over 180,000 locations across 19 states, according to an FCC release.

The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund was created after the FCC adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking in Aug. 2019 that proposed the $20.4 billion fund to assist small businesses and rural homes in acquiring reliable broadband service.

“This is good news for consumers waiting far too long for broadband in parts of the country that have yet to be served,” Acting FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a written statement.  “Broadband is an essential service and during the pandemic we’ve seen just how critical it is for families, schools, hospitals, and businesses to have affordable internet access.”

Rosenworcel continued, “Thanks to the hard work of our dedicated FCC staff who are carefully reviewing applications and working to clean up the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, this program will build new broadband infrastructure in areas that truly need it.”

In addition to conducting comprehensive reviews of the winning bidders, the FCC issued letters to certain applicants “concerning areas where there was evidence of existing service or questions of waste,” denied waivers to bidders that have yet to make “appropriate efforts to secure state approvals or prosecute their applications,” and disseminating a list of areas where providers had defaulted, “thereby making those places available for other broadband funding opportunities.”

The states pegged for the latest batch of funding are: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin.

In June, TWN reported the Blue Dog Coalition of House Democrats circulated a letter pressing House leadership to ensure rural broadband inequities were addressed in upcoming infrastructure legislation. In the letter, the Blue Dogs called for underserved and unserved communities to be prioritized in the implementation of rural broadband infrastructure.

“We were encouraged to see the Biden-Harris Administration recognize the importance of targeting unserved and underserved areas for broadband infrastructure funds under the American Rescue Plan,” coalition members wrote in the letter. “We hope that the upcoming infrastructure package will build on that success and that improved data collection can better target broadband investments in unserved and underserved communities. In our districts, we have seen firsthand how a continued lack of access to reliable high-speed internet created an insurmountable obstacle to success for rural residents that has been compounded by the COVID-19 crisis.” 

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