Breaking: CPUC ups proposed RDOF kicker to as much as 30%, for all federally eligible areas in California

20 November 2020 by Steve Blum
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Front line dispatch 625

Updated 10:01 a.m.

New rules for the California Public Utilities Commission’s proposed contribution – aka “kicker” – to the federal Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) were published this morning.

Click here to see the letter.

Changes include an offer of “up to 30%” of the Federal Communications Commission’s ten year “reserve price” for “all RDOF census block groups”, with a guarantee that 10% of the FCC reserve price will be available to Internet service providers that win subsidies for census block groups that are on the previously published list of particularly disadvantaged communities.

There are also more specifics on the strings the CPUC will attach to the kicker money, including last mile open access requirements, requirements for lifeline and low income rate plans and “gigabit capable infrastructure”.

To get the full 30% kicker, an ISP will have to be an “eligible publicly entity, including a joint powers authority or affiliated non-profit” and have outside, non-CASF, non RDOF financing “equal to at least twice the requested kicker amount”.

As before, first priority for kicker money will go to projects that were proposed last May for California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) subsidies, if the applicants win RDOF funding. Second priority is other RDOF winners, and the left overs go to CASF applicants that don’t receive RDOF subsidies.

As with all CPUC statements regarding the proposed RDOF kicker, this one comes with the caveat that the commission hasn’t formally approved the plan. “We are planning to release [a formal draft of kicker program rules] in early December for a Commission vote not sooner than January 14, 2021”, the letter says.

Round 14 of the RDOF auction is in progress and will end at 11:00 a.m. California time. The pace of the auction will pick up next week, with two rounds scheduled for Monday and for Tuesday. The length of each round will be cut from four hours to two and a half hours. In the past, the FCC has accelerated the pace as auctions approach the end. Which could mean RDOF bidding might be over sometime next week.