In a recent letter to Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and John Thune (R-SD) questioned the status of funding to the winners of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund auction. They pointed out that almost seven months had passed since over 300 companies had been awarded $5.2 million to provide broadband to unserved areas in 49 states. But no funds had as yet been distributed.
Their letter requested a status report on the Commission’s long-form application review process, noting that “the FCC cannot authorize money to (auction) winners until it reviews and approves a given provider’s long form application.” It asked for several items of information by July 29, 2021, including the following:
-The number of applications approved and denied, and if denied, a reason for the denial.
-A count of FCC staff participating in the review process.
-Whether or not the Commission plans to review all applications before authorizing funding to approved winning bidders, and if yes, why.
-If there is anything in the RDOF Report and Order which precludes authorizing funds on a rolling basis where the application has been reviewed and found sufficient.
-Any measures taken to ensure transparency and accountability in Commission reviews.
-An estimate of when the FCC will complete its review of all applications and begin funding.
-Whether the Commission will commit to monthly updates to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
It seems strange that an FCC that has signaled its strong intent to quickly close the Digital Divide has been so slow to act on RDOF funding.