FCC OKs another $112 million for rural broadband

The FCC has authorized another $112.2 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband to nearly 48,000 unserved rural homes and businesses in nine states ...

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The FCC has authorized another $112.2 million in funding over the next decade to expand broadband to nearly 48,000 unserved rural homes and businesses in nine states, representing the fifth wave of support from last year's Connect America Fund (CAF) Phase II auction. Broadband providers are scheduled to begin receiving funding later this month.

"Today, we take another step towards ensuring that all Americans have access to high-speed broadband," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. "This fifth round of funding will provide rural Americans from California to Ohio with the economic, educational, civic, and healthcare opportunities that 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 five waves of funding, and today's action brings total authorized funding to more than $1 billion, which is intended to expand connectivity to nearly 388,000 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:

  • Cal.net is receiving more than $50.5 million over 10 years to deploy service to 20,859 homes and businesses in California, most of which will get access to service delivering speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream/20 Mbps upstream, using fixed wireless technology.
  • W.A.T.C.H TV is receiving nearly $53.4 million over 10 years to deploy service to 23,957 rural homes and businesses in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, most of which will get access to service delivering speeds of at least 100 Mbps downstream/20 Mbps upstream, using fixed wireless technology.
  • Four rural phone companies are receiving $1.8 million to offer gigabit-speed fiber service to 536 rural homes and businesses in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

States receiving support in this round include California, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.

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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