FCC OKs 6th round of rural broadband funding

The FCC has authorized more than $61.8 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband to nearly 22,000 unserved rural homes and businesses in 14 states ...

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The FCC has authorized more than $61.8 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband to nearly 22,000 unserved rural homes and businesses in 14 states, representing the sixth wave of support from last year's Connect America Fund Phase II auction. Broadband providers are scheduled to begin receiving funding later this month.

"In states from the Pacific Coast to New England, we're taking another step toward closing the digital divide," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "This sixth round of funding continues to build on our efforts to provide rural Americans with the economic, educational, civic, and healthcare opportunities that high-speed Internet access makes possible."

In total, the auction last year allocated $1.488 billion in support over the next 10 years to expand broadband to more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses nationwide. The FCC has now authorized six waves of funding, and today's action brings total authorized funding to nearly $1.2 billion, which is intended to expand connectivity to 409,661 homes and businesses nationwide. Additional rounds will be authorized in the coming months.

Funding applications approved by the Commission in this round include the following:

  • Sunset Digital Communications is receiving nearly $29.6 million over 10 years to offer service to nearly 9,100 rural homes and businesses in Virginia and Tennessee at gigabit speeds.
  • Three companies - Inventive Wireless, Tri County Telephone, and Union Telephone - are receiving nearly $12.2 million over 10 years to offer service to 4,752 homes and businesses in Wyoming.
  • LocalTel Communications is receiving more than $6.8 million to offer service to 1,910 homes and businesses in central Washington state.
  • Gallatin Wireless Internet is receiving more than $4 million to offer service to 1,256 homes and businesses in Montana.

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.

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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