Broadband providers won subsidies for nearly all of the eligible California homes and businesses in the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, which concluded last month. But those subsidies total only a third of the theoretical dollars on offer. That’s pretty much what happened in the rest of the U.S., too.
Most of California’s winning bidders in the reverse auction were wireless Internet service providers (WISPs), and most claimed to be capable of delivering what the FCC calls “gigabit” service: 1,000 Mbps download/500 Mbps upload speeds. The stats I’ve crunched so far are below; a running spreadsheet with FCC data and my analysis, which I’ll try to keep updated, can be downloaded here.
Fifteen broadband companies will get a total of $695 million over ten years to deliver service to 365,000 homes and businesses – what the FCC calls “locations” – in California. Eight are clearly earthly WISPs, and a ninth – SpaceX – will (it says) deliver broadband via satellites in low earth orbit. Two cable companies – Charter Communications and Cox Communications – won subsidies for a relative handful of locations, and the default assumption is they’ll use standard copper coaxial cables and DOCSIS equipment to meet their obligations (although how they plan to deliver 500 Mbps upload speeds that way is sure to involve, um, entertaining explanations).
The technology proposed by the remaining four is less clear. Bankrupt Frontier Communications will be getting an average of $2,200 to deliver gigabit service to 15,000 Californian homes and businesses. Although Frontier has dabbled in radio magic, it also got fiber religion of a sort this year. It might be planning to use the money to build out fiber infrastructure. Might.
Cal-Ore is a small, rural telephone company in far northern California that delivers broadband service via fiber, wireless and legacy telco copper. Hunter Communications, bidding under the “Grain Communications Opportunity” flag, won subsidies for 1,600 locations. It’s proposed both wireless and fiber-based service in its California Advanced Services Fund grant applications.
RDOF rules allow ISPs to band together into bidding consortia, and the “RDOF USA Consortium” will get $820,000 to serve 1,600 locations. My bet is that Anza Electric Cooperative in Riverside County is the mystery winner, but I’ve lost bets before.
In total, the FCC tentatively awarded $9.2 billion in the first round of the RDOF auction. Winners still have to file paperwork that demonstrates their ability to fulfil their promises, so totals could change over the next few months. Although $16 billion was available, the purpose of this reverse auction was to pay the least amount of money for the most service. The remaining money, including $4 billion held back from this round, will presumably be offered in a second round sometime in the future.
|Technology||Assigned Support over 10 Years||Number of Locations Assigned||Support/ Location||% Support||% Locations|
|Assigned Support over 10 Years||Number of Locations Assigned||Support/ Location||Technology|
|California Internet, L.P. dba GeoLinks||$149,035,763||92,678||$1,608||Wireless|
|Frontier Communications Corporation||$33,379,752||14,943||$2,234||Unknown|
|Consortium 2020 (two midwest WISPs)||$29,131,921||52,456||$555||Wireless|
|Space Exploration Technologies Corp.||$5,746,961||6,297||$913||Satellite (LEO)|
|Grain (Hunter Communications)||$5,475,648||1,620||$3,380||Unknown|
|Cox Communications, Inc.||$2,386,244||3,118||$765||Cable|
|Hankins Information Technology||$2,171,845||3,727||$583||Wireless|
|RDOF USA Consortium (possibly Anza Electric Co-op)||$819,773||1,552||$528||Unknown|
|Commnet Wireless, LLC||$335,485||565||$594||Wireless|
|CCO (Charter Communications)||$231,835||1,045||$222||Cable|
|One Ring Networks, Inc||$68,385||1,170||$58||Wireless|
|Minimum (Mbps) 25 down/ 3 up||Baseline (Mbps) 50 down/ 5 up||Above Baseline (Mbps) 100 down/ 20 up||Gigabit (Mbps) 1,000 down/ 500 up||Total
|California Internet, L.P. dba GeoLinks||563||92,115||92,678|
|Frontier Communications Corporation||14,943||14,943|
|Consortium 2020 (two midwest WISPs)||52,456||52,456|
|Space Exploration Technologies Corp.||6,297||6,297|
|Grain (Hunter Communications)||1,620||1,620|
|Cox Communications, Inc.||3,118||3,118|
|Hankins Information Technology||3,727||3,727|
|RDOF USA Consortium (possibly Anza Electric Co-op)||1,552||1,552|
|Commnet Wireless, LLC||565||565|
|CCO (Charter Communications)||1,045||1,045|
|One Ring Networks, Inc||1,170||1,170|