Telephone companies can begin bidding for FCC rural broadband subsidies

18 October 2014 by Steve Blum
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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.