At its January 30th meeting, the FCC adopted its $20.4 billion plan to close the digital divide between rural and urban America. The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) establishes a two-phase, reverse auction mechanism that, over a ten-year period, will bring gigabit speed broadband networks to presently unserved and under-served rural areas.
“Without access to broadband,” said the Commission, “rural Americans cannot participate in the digital economy, or take advantage of the opportunities broadband brings for better education, healthcare, and civic and social engagement.”
The first phase of the RDOF is set to begin later this year for census blocks that are totally unserved with speeds of at 25/3 Mbps. A total of $16 billion has been earmarked for this part of the effort, with a multi-round reverse auction being used to allocate funds. The second phase, making an additional $4.4 billion available, will cover areas only partially served at 25/3 Mbps.
“The Connect America Fund has been a success in distributing resources to help bridge the digital divide,” stated the FCC, “and that success will be carried forward in the new Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.”
Chairman Pai, with Commissioners O’Rielly and Carr, approved the order in its entirety. Commissioners Rosenworcel and Starks, not surprisingly, approved in part and dissented in part.