FCC Adopts Bidding Procedures for $16 Billion Rural Broadband Auction

WASHINGTON (FCC PR) — The Federal Communications Commission today adopted procedures for Phase I of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction (Auction 904), which will award up to $16 billion in support over 10 years for the deployment of fixed broadband networks to millions of unserved homes and businesses across rural America.

The $20.4 billion Rural Digital Opportunity Fund is the FCC’s most ambitious step ever toward bridging the digital divide. It prioritizes bids for higher speed—up to 1 Gbps—and lower latency networks, and more than doubles the minimum speed from the FCC’s 2018 Connect America Phase II auction to 25/3 Mbps.

Bidding in the auction will begin on October 29, 2020, with the application window for potential bidders opening on July 1. The Public Notice adopts application procedures to ensure that bidders have the business experience and financial means to deploy broadband networks and intend to use a network technology that will allow them to meet performance requirements.

Commission staff will closely scrutinize applications to ensure that all applicants are proposing to use technologies with demonstrated success in providing mass market retail broadband to consumers to ensure taxpayer funding is not wasted.

Phase II of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund will make available at least $4.4 billion, in addition to unallocated funds from Phase I, to target partially served areas using precise, granular broadband coverage data being developed in the Commission’s Digital Opportunity Data Collection proceeding along with areas not won in the Phase I auction.

Communities and individuals with questions about the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund can contact the FCC’s Rural Broadband Auctions Task Force at ruralbroadband@fcc.gov. Service providers seeking information about applying to participate in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction can contact Auction904@fcc.gov.

Action by the Commission June 9, 2020 by Public Notice (FCC 20-77). Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly and Carr. Commissioners Rosenworcel and Starks approving in part and dissenting in part. Chairman Pai, Commissioners O’Rielly, Carr, Rosenworcel, and Starks issuing separate statements.