Telephone companies can begin bidding for FCC rural broadband subsidies

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The FCC will accept bids for its rural broadband experiment program, starting next week. With $100 million on the table, to be spent at the rate of $10 million a year for 10 years, the effort is likely to produce something like a dozen or so projects.

Because of legal restrictions on the source of the money – the Connect America Fund – only telephone companies that are certified as eligible telecommunications carriers (ETC), or shortly will be, can apply. Others can participate, but only as partners with an ETC. And any subsidised project has to offer voice service – on a common carrier basis meeting FCC standards – as well as broadband at 100 Mbps down/25 Mbps up or 10/1, depending on the size and location of the proposal.

The FCC has released a list of census blocks where projects can be funded. It’s determined by carrier-reported speeds. An area is eligible if no voice carrier offers broadband service at 3 Mbps down/768 Kbps up, according to the FCC’s FAQ…

Why are areas identified as unserved if they are served by a fixed wireless provider providing broadband services meeting the Commission’s standards but not providing voice services?

The Connect America Fund supports the deployment of both voice and broadband capable networks to high-cost areas. Because these areas are lacking voice service from a competitor, they are eligible for support…

The deadline for applying is 7 November 2014. Californian projects will get an automatic 10% spiff from the California Advanced Services Fund. Since the FCC is essentially running the application process as a reverse auction, the extra money will provide a competitive edge.

About Steve Blum

Steve Blum is president of Tellus Venture Associates, a management, planning and business development consultancy for municipal and community broadband initiatives. He is a 30-year industry veteran and an expert in developing new broadband infrastructure and services, including wireless, fiber optic and satellite systems. His career includes playing key roles in the launch and growth of DirecTv in the U.S., as well as other satellite broadcasting platforms around the world. For the past ten years, he has helped build municipal wireless and fiber optic broadband systems. His client list includes many California cities, such as San Leandro, Palo Alto, Oakland, Los Angeles, Lompoc and Folsom. He’s a member of the executive team for the Central Coast Broadband Consortium and has worked with other regional consortia in California. Steve is the author of seven books on the Internet and satellite broadcasting and is a frequent contributor to professional journals and industry events. He holds an A.B. in History from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.A. in East Asia Studies from the University of Washington, and an M.B.A. from the University of St. Thomas. He is a triathlete and multiple Ironman finisher, and is currently ranked in the top 100 of the Challenge Triathlon world rankings, out of more than 30,000 athletes.