FCC OKs 4th round of CAF rural broadband funding

The FCC has authorized more than $121 million in new funding over the next decade to expand broadband to 36,579 unserved rural homes and businesses in 16 states ...

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The FCC has authorized more than $121 million in new funding over the next decade to expand broadband to 36,579 unserved rural homes and businesses in 16 states, representing the fourth wave of support from last year's Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II auction. Providers are slated to begin receiving funding later this month.

"As we continue to authorize funds to expand broadband in rural America, I am excited to see the benefits for rural residents who live all across the country, from Tribal lands in Wyoming to mountain communities in Appalachia, from the Great Plains to the Pacific Northwest, and from the Texas Panhandle to northern Minnesota," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "This round of funding is yet another step toward closing the digital divide, providing access to digital opportunity to over 36,000 more unserved rural homes and businesses."

In total, the auction last year allocated $1.488 billion in support to expand broadband to more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses over the next 10 years. The FCC has already authorized three waves of funding in May, June, and July. Today's action brings total authorized funding to more than $924 million, expanding connectivity to 342,097 homes and businesses; additional rounds will be authorized in the coming months.

Funding applications approved by the Commission today include the following:

  • Northern Arapaho Tribal Industries, which is owned by the Northern Arapaho Tribe, is receiving $4.1 million to deploy service to 849 homes and businesses on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, all of which will get access to service delivering 1 Gbps speeds.
  • Tri-Co Connections is receiving $32.3 million to deploy gigabit service to more than 7,015 homes and businesses in rural Pennsylvania over its fiber network.
  • Midcontinent Communications is receiving $39 million to deploy service to 9,371 homes and businesses in rural Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, all of which will get service delivering speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream/20 Mbps upstream.
  • Citynet West Virginia will receive $6.5 million over the next decade to deliver gigabit service over its fiber network to 898 homes and businesses in rural West Virginia.

All of the service providers getting funding have committed to provide at least 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream, the FCC's current definition of broadband, and most have committed to providing speeds of 100 Mbps or 1 Gbps. States receiving support include Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The Connect America Fund Phase II auction is part of a broader effort by the FCC to close the digital divide in rural America. On Aug. 1, the FCC proposed establishing the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, which would direct up to $20.4 billion to expand broadband in unserved rural areas if approved.

Providers must build out to 40% of the assigned homes and businesses in the areas won in a state within three years. Buildout must increase by 20% in each subsequent year, until complete buildout is reached at the end of the sixth year.        

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